Balky browsers tick off tablet owners

Crashes are the top complaint from iPad Air, Fire HDX owners, No. 2 annoyance on iPad Mini, says Fixya

Browser problems are the most common complaints of iPad Air and Fire HDX tablet owners, an online community of troubleshooters said Friday.

San Mateo, Calif.-based Fixya mined 10,000 user-generated reports related to Apple's iPad Air and Retina-equipped iPad Mini, Amazon's Fire HDX and Microsoft's Surface 2, the second-generation tablet that replaced the poorly-received Surface RT of 2012, to come up with its conclusions.

Browser gripes topped the charts of the iPad Air and the 8.9-in. Fire HDX, said Fixya, while the surfing app tied for second on the iPad Mini's top-five-beef list.

Nearly a third -- 30% -- of the reported problems with the Air and 25% of those with the Fire stemmed from the tablets' bundled browsers, Safari and Silk, respectively. On the Retina iPad Mini, 20% of complaints targeted Safari, the same percentage as aimed ire at the paucity of storage space on the least expensive model.

"A relatively common issue with mobile Apple devices, especially those using Safari -- the browser that comes pre-packaged with the device -- is a crashing browser," said Fixya. "Users report that opening certain Web pages (most likely those that use [Adobe's] Flash [Player]) and opening multiple tabs on the browser can cause the browser to crash and kicks users onto the home [screen]."

Famously, Apple has never supported Flash Player on iOS, the mobile operating system that drives the iPad. Before his death, co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was adamant about banning Flash, going as far as to publicly trash the media software in a 2010 diatribe.

But Safari on iOS is not supposed to crash when it encounters a website that calls on the Adobe software.

Fire HDX owners pummeled Silk with similar laments. "Silk ... has a variety of issues, most notably choppy performance and tendency to crash," Fixya noted.

Only the Surface 2 escaped owners' disgust with their device's mobile browser. Microsoft's Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) is bundled with Windows RT 8.1, the OS that powers the tablet.

Instead, Microsoft customers tapped a shortage of quality apps as their No. 1 complaint, with 25% of the reports focused on the issue. Users' gripes matched those of analysts who have cited the app issue as the platform's weakest link since long before Microsoft started selling Windows 8.

Fixya recommended that iPad and Fire HDX owners regularly clear their browser's history and delete cookies to keep Safari or Silk as stable as possible. But it had no answer for the Surface 2's app problem. "App support is an issue with the device that ... users can't fix on their own," Fixya pointed out.

Fixya's report is available from the firm's website.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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