Less than six months after its debut, Apple's iPhone is used by 50 per cent more people to browse the internet than all the phones running Microsoft's long-established Windows Mobile operating system, according to data from a research company.

Although both platforms - the iPhone runs a modified, stripped-down version of Mac OS X - reported very small market share numbers in November, Apple's accounted for half again as many users on the web, according to California-based Net Applications.

Net Applications compiles data by monitoring sites that attract about 160 million visitors a month, and sniffs out the browser version and operating system used by each visitor. During November, the iPhone accounted for just 0.09 per cent of the operating system market share that Net Applications measured.

Windows Mobile, on the other hand, accounted for 0.06 per cent of the operating system market share.

The iPhone has showed up on Net Applications' monthly market share reports since July, where it debuted at 0.04 per cent. Since the iPhone's introduction, Windows Mobile had held steady at November's 0.06 per cent.

"This result is almost shocking, until you consider the browsing experience on a Windows Mobile device," said Vincent Vizzaccaro, Net Applications' vice-president of marketing, in an email. "Internet Explorer on Windows Mobile is a stripped down, inferior product that is almost unusable. And while Opera offers a very nice mobile version of its browser, it's usually not included on Windows Mobile devices.

"Safari on the iPhone is a full-featured version that is only hampered by Apple's lacking a 3G version of the iPhone," Vizzaccaro said. "Once the iPhone is available in 3G, and also offers GPS services, it will gain market share at even higher rates."

Apple will produce a 3G-based iPhone in 2008, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said last month. AT&T is the exclusive US carrier for the iPhone, and while it has deployed a 3G network in major metropolitan areas, it now supports Apple's smart phone with its EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution)-based technology for web browsing and email when outside the range of a WiFi hot spot.

Net Applications' market share data is updated monthly on its site.