iPhone Website Testing: Windows Browsers vs. iOS Simulator

I believe that in most cases, it’s important to test your website’s design on an iPhone and an iPad. This is easy to do if you own both of these devices or if you own a Mac (since Macs can use the free iOS Simulator, which can be downloaded through Xcode). But what if you do your web development on Windows and don’t own one or both of these devices or a Mac? People often suggest using Chrome or Safari because they both use the WebKit rendering engine, which is what Mobile Safari uses. It’s just a matter of overriding the browser’s user agent string and resizing the viewport. But is this method just as reliable as using the iOS Simulator? I did some tests to find out.

The Test Environment

I ran iOS Simulator 5.1 (272.21) on Mac OS 10.7.4 and I ran Chrome 20.0.1132.57 and Safari 5.1.7 (7534.57.2) on Windows 7. All three browsers used the following user agent string:

Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone Simulator; CPU iPhone OS 5_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9B176 Safari/7534.48.3

The Results

Conclusion

Although Chrome and Safari on Windows can produce results quite similar to iOS Simulator, I don’t believe they should be considered as reliable as iOS Simulator. Of course, none of the three should be considered a true replacement for the actual iOS devices, but I’ve compared all three to my iPod Touch and iOS Simulator definitely does a great job. So should you shell out your hard-earned cash for one or more expensive Apple devices? That’s up to you. Just be aware of the potential risks in putting too much trust in Chrome or Safari on Windows. Lastly, if you have the means, I encourage you to do your own tests before making a decision.

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