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Apple Continues Its Mobile-Browser Domination

By Evan Niu, CFA - Apr 1, 2013 at 6:00PM

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Recent figures out of Net Applications show Apple's Mobile Safari usage on the rise. Why aren't Android users browsing the web more?

In recent times, Apple (AAPL 2.54%) has been trying to shift consumer focus away from market share in unit terms while emphasizing different usage statistics, arguing that even though people may buy competing devices, they might not be using them as much.

Well, if the Mac maker is looking for more ammo, it needs to look no further than new data out from Net Applications. The mobile version of Apple's Safari browser has now reached 61.8% in March, well ahead of Google's (GOOGL 1.77%) Android browser at 21.9%. Opera Mini ranked third with 8.4% share, and Google's Chrome grabbed a 2.4% share. Microsoft (MSFT 2.03%) Internet Explorer earned just 2%.

Chrome for Android only launched just over a year ago, which means all smartphones running older versions of Android (which is a lot) don't get the popular browser as a default. It can still be downloaded manually from Google Play, but the figures imply that most users just stick with what's already there.

Apple's figure in March was a jump from the 55.4% it posted in February, although its mobile browser share tends to fluctuate between 60% and 66% most of the time. Apple offers other browsers on its iOS platform, but subtly undermines them by only allowing Safari as the default and prohibiting alternatives from using the Nitro JavaScript Engine for better performance (Apple claims this is for security reasons).

Browser usage is just one of the numerous ways in which tech heavyweights vie for consumer mindshare, since browsers allow companies to shape how we view the Internet. Browser choice has even landed Microsoft in hot regulatory water recently, when it agreed to pay up a $732 million fine to the European Commission.

While you may think that Apple's mobile browser share would draw regulatory scrutiny, it's still hard to argue that Apple's mildly anticompetitive practices are translating into total market domination, since regulators tend to focus more on unit share over usage share.

Still, the figures raise an obvious question: Why aren't Android users browsing the web more?

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