Is the web too fat for your IPhone?

So you have a spiffy mobile phone with a top notch browser that does a decent job at displaying “desktop-oriented” websites and you use it to surf the web regularly, visiting some of the bigger news-sites in Belgium. What does that mean, from the point of view of data transfer and bandwidth usage?

data usage for 4 pages on 5 sites (click on image for more, methodology see below)

That sure is a lot of data, Captain! What does that mean?

  1. You will have to be patient, because downloading 1 or 2 Mb for that initial page will probably be gruesomely slow (especially if you’re on EDGE because there’s no 3G-coverage)
  2. You will end up paying good money for all that data transfer, because data is money when you’re on mobile time
  3. You might even curse your handset or crashing browser (more on google), because all that data will end up in RAM and these devices do not come with tons of that.

In these broadband-times, website builders seem to have completely forgotten about best practices for download size of complete web pages (html + all js/css/images/…). This means that a lot of websites should be considered non-accessible on mobile devices.

If you want your normal website to be usable on IPhone’s, HTC’s and other Nokia’s, you’ll have to start taking download size into account again. That means taking some technical measures (using mod_deflate and mod_expires for example) and making hard functional choices to remove some stuff (on this blog dropping the rather useless mybloglog-widget saved me 210Kb, going from 10 to 7 posts per page another 200). And if you want to target mobile users specifically, you’d better invest in a mobile-specific version of your site!


The methodology followed to measure these download sizes;

  • disable flash (there’s no such thing on mobiles, with flash these figures would have been even far worse)
  • disable memory cache (in about:config), because it can’t be cleared easily
  • clear disk cache
  • open up firebug and click on ‘net’ to monitor downloads
  • download homepage, random 2nd page, random 3th page and the homepage again

The spreadsheet (on google docs) contains more data (compare above results with those for 2 mobile-specific sites)

One thought on “Is the web too fat for your IPhone?

  1. Joel

    Well said Frank. And it will remain fat for iPhone until apple use tiny processors. They have to come up with extra-fast connections to make them real smart phones. iPhone 4G too disappoint in browsing this way.

    Reply

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