Battle Of The Browsers: iOS 5’s Browser Is Still (Slightly) Better Than Android’s

Alright, fanboys: get your flamethrowers ready. HTML5 framework development house Sencha has just put a wide array of performance tools to use to answer one of life’s geekiest questions: Who’s got the better browser, Android 4 or iOS 5?

I’d save the answer until the end, but I suppose the headline gives its away: while Android 4’s browser is a “major step forward” for the platform, iOS 5’s offering still wins out in the end — but just by a hair!

Sencha tested both browsers on four primary metrics: rendering accuracy, rendering performance, HTML5/CSS3 feature support, and Javascript performance.

With regards to rendering, both browsers fared about the same: they both nailed perfect scores on the industry standard Acid3 test, and, while both had minor rendering artifacts, they were trivial enough that the scores went unaffected.

Sencha then went on to test each browser’s SunSpider performance. SunSpider is a series of tests built to push Javascript to its limit, testing a device’s performance on heavy-duty tasks that are currently (or likely to soon be) commonplace. See a graph of the results below (note that they used an iPad 2 rather than an iPhone 4S for this test as the CPU is closer to that found in the Galaxy Nexus, and that a Kindle Fire and Playbook were thrown in for curiosity’s sake):

(Also note: smaller bars = shorter time = better performance)

Outside of that one strange (but mostly irrelevant) Kindle Fire outlier under string performance, performance across all devices is… about the same. While each device has its own respective highlights and weakpoints, the performance differences we’re looking at here are measured in milliseconds.

Finally, Sencha dove into head-to-head into specific HTML5 capabilities, which ended up being the only test with a clear-cut winner. While both devices offered up a rather impressive HTML5 armory, iOS 5 had a leg up on Android in a handful of noteworthy places:

Of those, the most important markers are Web Sockets and Web Workers — which, to oversimplify things, respectively allow for two-way communication between web sites/devices (for realtime functionality) and for multiple scripts to run simultaneously locally on the device. In even simpler terms, they’re big parts of letting web apps work more like native apps.

Sencha also dives a bit deeper into some metrics specific to their animation tools, which you can find in their full report.

In the end, the differences are subtle enough that most folks (read: non-developers) would never even notice them. At this point, it’s absolutely a matter of personal preference and itty-bitty nuances. I’d take iOS’ browser over Android’s, for example, almost entirely because the former lets me jump to the top of the page with a tap of the status bar, rather than a zillion swipes. When everything is equally lightning fast and tailored to a tee, it’s all about the little things.