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Apple: iPhone browser isn't slower, testing was just flawed

Recently a Canadian firm put out a study claiming that — on average — the Android Chrome browser is 52 percent faster than the iOS Safari browser. But now Apple is shouting that the testing was seriously flawed and that its iPhone browser isn't so slow.

The Washington Post reports that an Apple spokesperson described the testing error after the Register covered the study:

“They didn't actually test the Safari Web browser on the iPhone," said Apple spokeswoman Tracy Muller in a statement to The Register. “Instead, they only tested their own proprietary app which uses an embedded Web viewer.”

What this means is that Blaze Software — the company behind the tests — wasn't able to take advantage of the "performance optimizations" offered through the actual iOS Safari browser. This is due to how some developers have their apps open up websites. Instead of switching over to Safari when a user hits a link, some developers want to open up sites within their own app. This means that they're stuck using the embedded Web viewer — which is a slightly different component than the actual Safari app.

The revelation that the embedded Web viewer used by proprietary apps is not able to take advantage of the same performance optimizations as the iOS Safari browser raised quite a few eyebrows, but according to Daring Fireball's John Gruber, there may be a good explanation for this discrepancy: Security.

[It's] about security. Perhaps the biggest reason for Nitro’s performance improvements over WebKit’s previous JavaScript engine is the use of a JIT — “Just-In-Time” compilation. Here’s Wikipedia’s page on JIT. A JIT requires the ability to mark memory pages in RAM as executable, but, iOS, as a security measure, does not allow pages in memory to be marked as executable. This is a significant and serious security policy. 

Plain English translation: Apple is not crippling apps which use the Web viewer, it's just keeping us safer.

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Rosa Golijan writes about tech here and there. She's a bit obsessed with Twitter and loves to be liked on Facebook.