Opera retakes mobile browser market

June 4, 2009 // 10:16 a.m.

Tags: #apple #fennec #firefox-mobile #mobile-browser #opera #opera-mini #opera-mobile #safari #web-browser

Perennial underdog Opera has finally taken back the mobile browser crown, after being ousted by relative newcomer Safari.

Despite the low market share currently held by the desktop version of the Opera web browser, its mobile variants – Opera Mini and Opera Mobile – have traditionally enjoyed great success. At least, until Apple came along with the immensely popular iPhone, which featured rival mobile browser Safari as standard and rapidly caught up to Opera – before eclipsing it in February of this year.

During May, Opera was finally able to wrest its lead back again. According to figures from analytics company StatCounter quoted by DownloadSquad, May saw Opera's share of the mobile browser market return to a healthy 24.6 percent – some points above rival Apple, which dipped to 22.3 percent in the same period.

The default – and un-named – browser which Finnish giant Nokia ships with their Symbian handsets brought up third place as usual, with a mere 17.9 percent. The remaining 35.2 percent was classified by StatCounter as “other.”

The comparison between Safari and Opera is perhaps a trifle unfair: while Opera is available for pretty much any handset with a Java virtual machine, the mobile version of Safari is restricted to Apple's own hardware – namely the iPhone and iPod Touch. With that said, the argument could easily be made the other way: while iPhone and iPod Touch owners have little or no choice as to what browser they use, the vast majority of Opera's not-inconsiderable user base has actively chosen to seek out and install the company's software.

How long Opera will be able to keep its lead in the mobile browser market – especially should Apple make good on the rumours of a redesigned next-generation iPhone in the next few months – remains to be seen. Given Opera's relatively poor performance in the desktop sector, it's a market the company really can't afford to lose.

What's your mobile browser of choice – the pre-installed default or an optional download like Opera Mini? Perhaps you're still waiting for Mozilla's Fennec to be released? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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