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Thank the higher power of your choice for the fiercely aggressive, competitive nature of the engineers working on both Apple’s Safari browser and Android’s open-source alternative. Not only have coders done a great job of supporting as much Web content as possible in their pet browsers, they’ve also challenged each other on speed. Not with incremental creeping improvements, but with huge leapfrogs over each other.

In the latest test match performed by the reliable gearheads at Ars Technica, the browser built into Android 2.2 ran one standard test two times faster than the latest iPhone browser on a new iPhone 4, and another four times faster. That’s the difference between waiting five seconds for a page to load and waiting 10 seconds. In the grand scheme of life, it’s not much, but if you’re trying to read Google Maps as your bus is arriving, those few seconds are precious.

As a BlackBerry user — the keyboard is why I love it — I can only hope the phone’s long-overdue browser upgrade in the next revision of BlackBerry’s operating system will beat, rather than meet, these test scores set by Android and iPhone. Of all the applications now available for smartphones, the browser is the single most important one on which developers should focus. Email works fine, thanks, as does texting, on every phone on my desk. But all mobile browsers are still slow compared to where they could be. Maybe what we need is an X-Prize-like reward for the first browser development team to beat Android 2.2’s test scores by a factor of ten.

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