Today at Opera’s booth at Mobile World Congress, I got a double dose of alternative browsers. First up was Opera Mobile 10 Beta for Android, which isn’t available to the public yet. (Spoiler alert: I like it way better than the current Editors’ Choice winning browser for Android).
Then, I got to see a preview of Opera Mini for iPhone, which Opera announced last week but has yet to submit to the App store for approval (for that reason, I wasn’t allowed to film video, although the screenshot at right is revealing ). Read on to see our hands-on video and find out why both are worth switching to (even if the iPhone version never sees the light of day).
Opera Mobile 10 Beta
With a home screen that’s reminscent of Google Chrome, Opera Mobile 10 for Android looks the way Android’s default browser should look. It has a “speed dial” of favorite sites, whose thumbnails are arranged like numbers on a keypad. As with Android’s interface in general, you can customize the speed dial, editing URLs or removing sites altogether.
Unfortunately, Opera does not support multi-touch gestures, such as pinch to zoom. These gestures are now standard on the Google Nexus One’s Android browser and are available on other Android phones by installing Dolphin Browser.
Aside from the speed dial, I’m a fan of Opera’s red-and-white interface, which leaves plenty of room for, you know, Web pages, even with multiple tabs open (this is true of Opera on any platform, including the iPhone). One of the reasons I’m not as sweet on Dolphin Browser, is that it takes up more on-screen real estate than I’d like. True, Dolphin allows for multi-touch gestures and Opera does not support multitouch, but I don’t think that outweighs the fact that it takes up more precious pixels than necessary.
No word yet on when Opera Mobile 10 will make its way into Android Market, but when it does I suggest you try it.
Opera Mini for iPhone
It’s a bummer that we couldn’t film a video walking you through Opera Mini for iPhone. As you see, at least from the screens, the interface is more or less the same as the forthcoming Android version, including the tabbed browsing and an engine that compressses Web pages to a tenth of their size, making them faster to send. Indeed, in a side-by-side comparison of two iPhones, one with Safari and the other with Opera, loading NYTimes.com over Wi-Fi, the one running Opera finished more than thirty seconds earlier.
While Opera Mini for iPhone is faster than mobile Safari and has a more space-efficient and sleek interface, I couldn’t help but feel that Opera wasn’t taking full enough advantage of what the iPhone has to offer. With one exception (more on that in minute), Opera’s policy is to endow Opera Mini for iPhone with the same feature set that every other version– even the ones loaded on feature phones– have. That’s democratic of Opera, to be sure, but it also means that the browser has no multi-touch support. Watching an Opera rep handle the iPhone by double tapping the screen to zoom just didn’t feel right.
One exception Opera did make for iPhone is allowing the text to fit (or nearly fit) the size of the screen when you zoom. That means, no matter how far in you zoom, you still won’t have to do any sideways scrolling, if any, to read a full sentence.
No word on when Opera will submit Mini for iPhone to the App store. Regarding Apple’s history of vetoing third-party browsers, a rep on site said, “We’re veryconfident that we are compliant with the SDK.” That may be, but I’m not sure an app has to be incompliant for Apple to reject it. In any case, best of luck, Opera.