Modern handset makers know that consumers want a faster mobile web browsing experience, so they put lots of marketing effort into promoting powerful phone CPUs and new wireless connections. When we hear about improvements in reading web pages on your smart phone, the focus is usually on features like a 4G network uplink or a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor. While these characteristics are important, they ignore a prominent aspect in web browsing: the memory cache. The larger the cache, the more the browser can store for quick access when you come back to a site. Last week, the Yahoo! User Interface Blog examined the different caches various mobile browsers use, and how they can affect the browsing experience.
The Yahoo User Interface Blog tested Android 2.1 on a Nexus One smart phone, webOS 1.4.1 on a Palm Pre, and four different varieties of Apple's iOS on the iPad, iPhone, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4. The tests included individual cache limits and support for Last-Modified and ETag page headers, and for whether the cache was preserved after turning the device off and back on.
Google's Android 2.1 was the undisputed victor of the battle, with the best overall cache properties and broadest feature set. The OS could cache up to 2 MB of components, and seemed to have no page cache limit. The site noted that the 2 MB limit might only apply to the Nexus One, and that according to the Android Webkit source tree cache size might rely entirely on available system memory. On top of that, it supported both Last-Modified and ETag headers and preserved its cache through power cycling. Android stands out as the only mobile OS tested with all three features.