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The iPhone’s Safari browser couldn’t win this week: it was either hopelessly outdated against the efforts of Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Android…

Apple takes on Google: Nexus One Vs. iPhone

The iPhone’s Safari browser couldn’t win this week: it was either hopelessly outdated against the efforts of Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Android or part of a larger conspiracy to drive more business to Apple’s App Store.

Two separate-yet-similar reports regarding the performance of Apple’s iPhone Web browser underscore the perils of benchmarking and the intense scrutiny paid to anything Apple-related in the modern tech world. The most recent report arrived Thursday via Blaze, a consulting company focused on Web site design and optimization. It sought to measure the performance of Safari against Android’s mobile Chrome browser by measuring page load times across the Web sites of Fortune 1000 companies.

The results? “Android’s Chrome beat iPhone’s Safari by loading 84 (percent) of the websites faster, meaning Safari won the race only 16 (percent) of the time. While we expected to see one of the browsers come out on top, we didn’t expect this gap,” Blaze wrote in its report. The thing is, they should definitely have tumbled to at least one of the reasons for the gap, either in their testing itself or just prior to publishing this study.

That’s because on Monday, The Register published a seemingly-damming expose that the faster Nitro Javascript engine released as part of Apple’s most recent iOS 4.3 software update did not extend to Web applications launched into full-screen mode from icons on a user’s home screen. Without exactly bothering to prove its case, and with a headline screaming of a conspiracy (Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) handcuffs ‘open’ web apps on iPhone home screen), The Register insinuated that Apple was trying to discourage developers from making Web applications so they’d be forced to create native application distributed through Apple’s App Store, downplaying suggestions from some iPhone developers that the omission could simply be a bug.

Yet whatever the motivation, The Register report (the not-as-fast home-screen Web apps were also verified by Ars Technica) is telling because Blaze’s testing methodology involved creating a custom Web application using the iPhone’s embedded browser–not the actual browser–run from the iPhone’s home screen in order to test page-load speed, meaning that pages loaded via that method wouldn’t receive any of the benefits of the Nitro Javascript engine updates. Blaze chose this method because traditional Web benchmarking applications don’t always capture real-world performance, according to Slashgear.

However, even if there wasn’t a bug/evil plot holding back Web applications so that Apple could make more money, it would seem much more reflective of real-world performance to measure the performance of the Web within the browser itself, as opposed to applications that run using the embedded browser, as Apple enthusiast Jim Dalrymple at The Loop suggested. And the thing is, doing it that way may not have even changed the underlying conclusion. The Nitro update dramatically improved Safari’s Javascript performance but that doesn’t always correlate to a one-for-one boost in page-load time. That means Android still probably would have turned out to be the faster browser, just perhaps not by the gap Blaze said it never expected in the first place, which of course doesn’t make for as dramatic a headline.

A few hours after the report had been issued, Blaze updated its blog post to reflect the criticism over its methods. “Some wonder whether the new Nitro JavaScript engine was used in our measurements. We’re still investigating this issue, as the report was completed before it was made known. So far we’ve seen indications in both directions, so we can’t say for sure it’s being applied,” the company said in the update.

In any event, the back-and-forth proves that benchmarking controversies are one PC era headache bound to infiltrate the post-PC era, and that even the tiniest cracks in Apple’s armor are bound to stir up a hornet’s nest. Of course, these reports don’t even address the real problem with mobile browsing or Web applications: the speed and availability of one’s wireless network. If the network is shaky, it doesn’t matter which browser you’re using.

  1. Soon, earthlings, I will deliver to you my Droid Bionic and Droid 3. Dual core processing, latest Android OS and 3G-4G. The Force will not be with iPhone and they will be banished to a galaxy far far away.

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  2. Given that ARS Technica and Blaze are full blown geek central hubs I am not surprised this worthless testing report was published.

    These people went in with the mentality of trying to figure out in advance what they can do to skew the results into Androids favor.

    This is just another pathetic attempt by pathetic geeks to try to sway the mainstream over to complicated worthless crapware android devices!!! ITS NOT GONNA HAPPEN!!!! Apple wins. Everytime!

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