Ever since Steve Jobs showed the speedy new iPhone 3G in a browser faceoff against the Nokia N95 at WWDC, users on Howard Forums have been crying foul. They say His Steveness's test of loading the National Geographic homepage was bogus because the N95's browser uses Flash, a feature that the iPhone's Safari lacks. We ran our own tests of the N95 browser with Flash turned off in New York and San Francisco, and found some interesting results: The N95 is often slower than was demoed at WWDC. But much, much faster with the free Opera browser with its images optimized server-side.
In Manhattan, I loaded the National Geographic site on the N95's browser without Flash about 10 times. Each result was different, but the bulk came up in the 37-43 second range, even slower than Jobs' 33-second claim. Spotty reception could've been to blame, because the status indicator switched between 3G and 3.5G several times. Or that the local tower was being utilized; remember, 3G bandwidth is a shared resource. This stuff is hard to quantify without true side by side tests.
Over on the left coast, our intern John ran the test on his N95 too. The site loaded for him in 31 seconds without flash, and about 37 seconds with it turned on.
He also gave it a go with Opera Mini, and without flash the page loaded in an astounding 10.6 seconds, less than half the time advertised by the iPhone 3G. However, Opera works a bit differently than the default browser—it only loads optimized content filtered through their servers in Norway. But John was able to zoom in on any part of the page and see full image quality instantly, just like Mobile Safari.
What else is interesting is that the side by side EDGE/3G tests from iPhone to iPhone show a 2.4x increase in speed. But Apple uses the Lonely Planet website for benchmarking, according to the iPhone 3G website. So, despite the tests on stage at WWDC, were they showing numbers for Lonely Planet? I doubt it, but I'm also confused as to why they'd switch up metrics. (The fine print is here.)
So what's the answer? Well, we're not entirely sure. Jobs' test results look kosher, but the implied winner here is Opera Mini. Progressive loading in half the time of Safari? Sign me up. But when it comes to the speed of the stock browser on a Nokia N95 using 3G, let us know if you've had better results.
Additional reporting by John Herrman