Smartphones from the likes of Apple, HTC and BlackBerry-maker RIM all ship with full Web browsers, and within the next five years, more than half of mobile phones of all types will follow suit, according to ABI Research.
In a report Aug. 3, ABI analysts said that by 2015, more than 60 percent of mobile handsets will include a Web browser. In addition, they said that browsers will take on one of two forms: full Internet browsers, like those found on many popular smartphones, or proxy-based browsers.
The evoution of browsers for mobile phones will continue to evolve along those two paths, according to ABI analyst Mark Beccue. In the report, Beccue described one "highly sophisticated" variety as what most users consider a "full Internet browser." These are found on both smartphones and high-end feature phones.
"Such devices can host these browsers because they have advanced application processors, expanded memory capacity and adequate screen size and resolution," he said in a statement. "These full Internet browsers typically require about 64Mb 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."
The second variety is called proxy-based - or client-server or compression-based. The best-known of these is the Opera Mini browser, which as of January surpassed 50 million unique visitors per month.
"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 4Mb of memory," said Beccue. "That means these browsers can be used on even the lowest-cost phones."
Still, ABI is forecasting that the installed base of full Internet browsers will exceed the less-demanding proxy-based browers some time during 2012. For browsers to reach 60 percent of the handset market would still mean doubling the current penetration rate, according to ABI, though judging by recent figures, the market is well on its way toward such an accomplishment.
Strategy Analytics put total handset shipment for the second quarter at 308 million units - up 13 percent from a year ago. Smartphone shipments, however, rose to a record-high 60 million units during the quarter, marking an annual growth of 43 percent. Smartphones running Google's Android mobile OS boasted particular momentum, with a quarterly growth rate of 886 percent.