Data from Opera's mobile Web proxy servers suggest mobile Web browsing is exploding among users of standard cell phones, thanks in part to demand driven by consumers that expect smartphone-like browsing as well the more advanced capabilities of mobile browsers like Opera Mini.
Apple's iPhone changed the way we think about mobile Web access by giving us the "real" Internet via its Mobile Safari browser. Since its introduction, smartphone vendors have scrambled to offer a comparable browsing experience, generally by building a browser based on WebKit—the same engine that powers Mobile Safari. But consumer expectation is driving demand for mobile Internet access for standard cell phones as well. According to data from mobile browser maker Opera, mobile traffic to standard smartphones surged in October, growing 16 percent over September.
Opera Software's Opera Mini browser is one of the few usable solutions for standard "feature phones." The Java-based browser actually uses proxy servers to compress and handle much of the rendering of websites using the same rendering engine as Opera's desktop browser, which is then pushed to the phone and displayed on-screen. This arrangement makes it possible to view even complex pages on meager hardware (by smartphone standards) and helps avoid some of the network congestion and speed issues that can sometimes affect full-featured mobile browsers.
Although WAP-based browsing has been around for years, the typically slow speeds and less-than-ideal experience rendered it mostly a non-feature for the average user. Since all the traffic for Opera mini goes through Opera's proxy servers, and Opera Mini accounts for just over a quarter of all mobile browsing globally, the data gleaned from its proxy servers gives us useful insight into the browsing habits of non-smartphone users. Improvements in cell phone and browser technology have gradually made mobile browsing more useful, but the iPhone changed those expectations forever.
"When things really started to get off was when Steve Jobs stood up and said: Now you can get Internet in your pocket," Opera's chief financial officer, Erik Harrell, told Reuters. Likewise, mobile operators recognized the benefit of having a browser available on all variety of cell phones. "The iPhone has opened the eyes of operators for revenue potential of Web browsers and I think Google has done the same," Harrell said.
Though smartphones are becoming an increasingly significant portion of mobile phone sales, about a quarter billion standard cell phones are sold worldwide quarterly. Users of these phones want mobile access to the Internet as much as smartphone users. While smartphones will eventually become standard, those billion or so new phones annually will benefit from technology like Opera Mini, which enjoys market share above 50 percent in emerging markets such as Russia and India.
Source: ars technica