A new study has found Safari is the most reliable mobile browser, followed by the stock Android browser, Chrome, Opera, and then Internet Explorer. Nevertheless, all five have their persistent issues: Safari and Chrome users long for Flash support, Opera and IE fans struggle with viewing pages correctly, and those stuck with the stock Android browser still experience random crashes.

The results are based on troubleshooting requests (61,582 combined problems) posted by consumers through Fixya, the Q&A site for finding repair solutions. Market share data from Net Applications is used to assign each mobile browser a usability score:

score Safari tops mobile browser usability study, followed by stock Android, Opera, Chrome, and then IE

The results come from a year-long study (September 2012 to September 2013) performed by Fixya, which has 30 million monthly users across its product Q&A site and iOS app. As you can expect, the fewer problem impressions the company had relative to their market share, the higher the score.

Safari

The top issue Safari users complained about was related to two categories tied for first: no Flash support (25 percent) and screen real estate (25 percent). The Video integration category took 20 percent, followed by cached pages at 15 percent, and the remaining 15 percent was lumped under Other.

Fixya noted Safari stood out from the pack with its individual page action features like creating reading lists, printing Web pages, the ability to add pages to your home screen, and easily mailing/tweeting links. Aside from the lack of Flash support, Fixya believes Apple’s stock browser isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Stock Android

The top issue stock Android browser users complained about was related to random crashes (35 percent). This was followed by password concerns (20 percent), limited support (15 percent), and various versions (15 percent). The remaining 15 percent was lumped under Other.

With the second highest usability score of the group, Fixya says the stock Android browser has users loving the simple UI design, the quick browser speed, and the strong support for Flash videos. All of this makes it a great fit for first time and early mobile users looking to surf the Web from their mobile devices.

Opera

The top issue stock Opera users complained about was screen real estate (40 percent). This was followed by security concerns (20 percent), data usage not working (15 percent), Flash support (15 percent). 10 percent went under Other.

Although being known for having especially strong support for HTML5, Opera users on Fixya have noted some issues with screen real estate, with pages being slimmed down or loading in strange and non-aesthetic ways. That being said, Opera is still doing better in mobile than on the desktop.

Chrome

The top issue Chrome users complained about was screen font recognition (30 percent). This was followed by tab issues (25 percent), lack of Flash support (25 percent), and minor JavaScript incompatibility (10 percent). Another 10 percent was marked Other.

Although it ranked fourth in the report, Chrome is quickly gaining steam on the stock Android browser with only a 0.23 difference in usability score, despite an 18 percent gap in market share. Chrome still has a bit of catching up to do, with Fixya users finding the complete lack of Flash support and sporadic font recognition outweighing the (sometimes) sleek UI and cross platform compatibility that has made the browser so popular.

Internet Explorer

The top issue IE users complained about was poor rendering (35 percent). This was followed by font recognition (20 percent), search engine (20 percent), and compatibility (15 percent). The last 10 percent was put into Other.

With the exception of great screen real estate and cross-platform compatibility, a combination of font recognition errors, a serious lack of search engine options (mainly Bing favorability), and occasional site rendering issues landed IE at the bottom of Fixya users’ list of most reliable mobile browsers. This is a big downside for Windows Phone users.

Final thoughts

Mobile browsers nowadays are being updated very quickly, especially Chrome and Internet Explorer. This means that many of the complaints are no longer valid for new versions, which is why we would urge Fixya to start releasing a quarterly report instead of an annual one.

You can read the whole report for yourself here (PDF).

See also – IE6 finally falls below 5% market share, but IE up overall as Firefox and Chrome dip and FixYa releases its smartphone report with common problems and solutions

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