The latest Android smartphone loaded web pages 52 percent faster than iPhone 4 running iOS 4.3, according to thousands of independent field tests by Blaze Software.

The web page load times were about a second apart for the two devices in a study that amassed 45,000 load tests in all. For Android 2.3 on the Google Nexus S smartphone using a version of Chrome, the median load time was 2.144 seconds, compared to 3.254 seconds for iPhone 4 on iOS 4.3 running a version of Safari, according to the study.

Blaze used Fortune 1,000 websites for the tests, running the web page loading tests repeatedly over Wi-Fi and 3G wireless connections with nothing else running on the phones at the time. The Android phone was faster than the iPhone in loading 84 percent of the tested websites. "Android wasn't just faster overall, but rather provided a faster browsing experience four times out of five," the study said.

Blaze was keen to describe its tests as objective; David Horne, marketing programs manager for Blaze, stated that the firm has no association with Google or Apple "in any form". Blaze writes software to automatically accelerate website speeds and created a mobile testing tool used in the Android-iPhone study to be able to analyse mobile web performance and to "discover new optimisation to add to our core product," Horne explained.

While Android came out ahead in the load time comparison, the study noted that both are "generally fast". However, the study also noted that "browser speed is a big deal" and had been a prominent point when both Apple and Google recently noted their improved JavaScript engines. "Browser performance is all the rage, and everybody says theirs is faster," the study added.

The study's authors said they were surprised by the results.

One surprise came because both iPhone and Android had optimised JavaScript engines in their latest versions, but were not much faster than previous versions also tested, Blaze said. "Both Apple and Google tout great performance improvements [with optimised JavaScript] but those seem to be reserved to JavaScript benchmarks and high-complexity apps," the study said. "If you expect pages to show up faster after an upgrade, you'll be sorely disappointed."

Blaze said part of the problem is that the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, a kind of custom test used by Apple and Google, and other benchmark tests "are very different than real-world sites and don't reflect the actual user experience." Blaze said it measured the load time of web pages, "mimicking the experience users would get when browsing on their smartphones."

Other testing groups have only compared a small set of sites manually, Blaze said.

Additionally, of the 1,000 sites tested, 175 were customised for mobile access. The iPhone improved the time to load a mobile website by 39 percent over other standard websites, while Android improved the difference in the two types of sites by 8 percent. Still, Android loaded both types faster than the iPhone 4.

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