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Mobile Phone Web Browsers Going Mainstream

In 2015, 3.8 billion mobile handsets -- more than 60 percent of the total installed base worldwide -- will contain mobile web browsers, according to the latest market study by ABI Research. That doubles today's penetration rate.

"Mobile browsers are evolving along two paths," says senior analyst Mark Beccue at ABI Research.

On one hand, highly sophisticated browsers, which we are calling full Internet browsers, will be found in all smartphones and a growing number of enhanced (or feature) phones.

Such devices can host these browsers because they have advanced application processors, expanded memory capacity and adequate screen size and resolution. These full Internet browsers typically require about 64 Mb of memory to run.

A real key to the growth of full Internet browsers in higher-end feature phones is the falling cost of sophisticated applications processors. But there is also a second path.

Parallel to this development, a new family of browsers has emerged: the proxy-based (or client-server or compression) browser, which is epitomized by the Opera Mini.

These browsers move some caching and processing off the phone to a nearby server, allowing the browser to run on lower-cost processors and requiring as little as 4 Mb of memory. That means these browsers can be used on even the lowest-cost phones.

The ABI market study indicates that the installed base of full Internet browsers will exceed that of proxy-based browsers sometime in 2012.

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