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The new Opera browser beta for Android was released last week. It's a fine looking mobile browser that allows you to access the web quickly and painlessly on a phone.

If you've looked for the new Opera browser on Google Play you'll have probably noticed there are now three versions of Opera for Android - Opera Mini, Opera Mobile, and this new one, Opera browser (currently in beta). You're probably wondering which version of Opera to download and what the differences are between these versions.

What's the difference between Opera Mobile and Opera Mini?

OK, we can kill one thing right away - Opera Mini and Opera Mobile are identical apart from one thing - Opera Mini compresses all web content to make browsing faster and to save on your data plan, and Opera Mobile doesn't. Though, to confuse things more, Opera Mobile does include a data-saving feature you can turn on called 'Opera Turbo', but it uses a different kind of compression technology than what powers Opera Mini.

In all other respects Opera Mini and Opera Mobile are the same. The user interface is identical and all of the features in Opera Mobile (barring Turbo) are available in Opera Mini.

But will Opera Mobile and Opera Mini still be around now that Opera browser has been released?

Opera has confirmed to us that Opera browser will supersede Opera Mobile. Though it's unclear when, Opera Mobile will disappear from Google Play, leaving a straight choice between Opera browser and Opera Mini.

So, how is Opera browser beta different from Opera Mini?

The new Opera browser beta and Opera Mini look pretty different and while they share many features, each has certain things that you won't find in the other. Here are some of the main differences in the way Opera Mini and Opera browser look and behave:

Data saving

Arguably the most important difference between Opera Mini and Opera browser for Android is in the way pages are compressed. As I already said, Opera Mini serves you compressed versions of pages to make browsing faster and save the amount of data you use. Opera browser (like Opera Mobile, above) doesn't compress pages by default. However, it does have an 'Off Road' mode, which uses exactly the same compression system as Opera Mini - i.e. keep this turned on and pages will, in theory, load as fast as they would in Opera Mini.

Speed Dial

The Speed Dial is your Opera home screen, giving you quick access to your favorite pages. The Speed Dial in Opera browser is slicker and more intelligent than it is in Opera Mini. It allows you to group site shortcuts into folders by holding and dragging icons on top of each other (just as you can do in iOS).

Instead of bookmarking pages (or 'starring' them as you do in Opera Mini), the Opera browser app stores all of your favorites within the Speed Dial. This can make for more clutter and seems messy at first, but once you get your head around organizing stuff into folders it becomes a smart way to store and manage useful links.

Discovery

Slide to the right in Opera Browser and you'll see the 'Discover' section. This is a customizable hub for quick access to the latest news content. You can choose what kind of content you'd like to see here (entertainment, business, sports, health, lifestyle, etc.) The Discover section of Opera browser is well presented and feels a bit like reading a mini news magazine.

Opera Mini includes a similar - though more basic - feature, which you'll find on the Home tab of the start page. It automatically displays latest content from your favorite sites and social networks and suggests links to web content you might like.

Toolbar

The browser toolbars in Opera browser and Opera Mini look very different. The toolbar in Opera browser appears at the top and includes both the address bar, navigation controls, access to tabs and one-tap access to options.

Opera Mini on the other hand has two separate toolbars - one address bar with separate search box at the top, then another at the bottom of the interface with navigation controls, access to tabs and the options menu button. This makes Opera Mini appear more cluttered and doesn't allow you to view as much as the page as Opera browser does.

The options menu in Opera browser is better designed (IMHO) and feels a lot lighter than the black pop-up menu of Opera Mini, which dominates the screen when you call it up.

Another benefit of Opera browser over Opera Mini is that it has search built within the address bar itself (like Chrome), so you don't need to type a search in a separate box. Like Mini, Opera browser allows you to set a search engine from a range of options.

Tabbed browsing

Both Opera browser and Opera Mini support tabbed browsing. The way this is implemented is quite different between the two, though.

Opera browser has a slicker tabbed browsing interface design, which fades down the page behind it and gives prominence to the tabs (more like Safari for iOS). Tabs in Opera Mini appear in a smaller window at the foot of the screen, and the preview thumbnails are much smaller.

Opera browser includes the ability to open 'private tabs'. If you add a tab in this way, the pages you surf to will not show up in your history.

User agent switching

Opera browser allows you to customize the user agent of the browser. That's to say, you can choose to view pages designed for mobile or desktop. This is useful if a site's mobile version is limited in options (Amazon, for example), or if you prefer the design of the desktop version.

What features are common to Opera Mini and Opera browser?

While the user interface is very different between Opera browser and Opera Mini, there are plenty of helpful browsing features that are common to both apps:

  • Opera Link - allows you to synchronize your Speed Dial and bookmarks with all devices you use
  • Download Manager - both tools allow you to view all your downloads in one place through a handy manager
  • Accept cookies - you can choose to enable or disable receipt of cookies, which collect browsing data
  • Find in page - lets you quickly search the web page you're looking at for a keyword or phrase
  • Set image quality - when in compression mode, allows you to set the quality of image to save even more data

How to decide which version of Opera for Android is best for you

Now you have the facts about which version of Opera for Android to choose you can start to think about what you want and need from a mobile browser.

Of course, there's no substitute for trying out the application yourself, so the next thing you should do is download and road test both Opera Mini and the new Opera browser. Find out which interface is more comfortable for you to use and which are the features you really need.

It's worth bearing in mind though that the Opera Mini interface will no doubt be upgraded one day to fit the style of Opera browser. When this happens you'll have a straight decision of whether you want always-on page compression or a more flexible data-saving option like Opera browser's Off Road mode.

We asked Pål Unanue-Zahl, Communications Manager, Opera, which version of Opera for Android users should go for:

It depends. Opera for Android beta supports Android 2.3 and up, which is by far the most of Android devices on the market. If your phone runs anything lower than that, you may be better off with Opera Mini for Android phones. If you want the full-fledged browser, use Opera for Android beta. If you want constant data savings on your data plan while browsing, use Opera Mini.

Which version of Opera do you prefer to use on your Android device? Or do you use a different mobile browser? If so, what is it?

Commented

  • Ron Jensen |
    14/03/13
    Ron Jensen

    OPERA Mobile is the only Browser I could get to run on my Droid Bionic running ICS 4.04. I tried OPERA MINI 1st and had all kinds of problems. Opera is a nice browser, which I believe comes out of Norway.

  • oxalis |
    17/03/13
    oxalis
  • reza |
    22/05/13
    reza

    Thanks for the article, was wondering this exact question :D

  • John |
    26/05/13
    John

    In South Africa, on a blackberry handset using the Blackberry Service, does Opera Mini use regular data and thus cost you to browse unlike the blackberry browser...? I've discovered it does...

  • SEOmid |
    31/05/13
    SEOmid

    thanks for the blog post on this

  • samad |
    02/06/13
    samad

    nice post!! also check out Opera mini vs opera mobile @

    http://www.technostop.net/opera-mini-and-opera-mobile-whats-the-difference/

  • BARAK |
    07/06/13
    BARAK

    There is extremely weird/wrap,in browsing with opera min! Its typically difficult to read and use internet, Please its free but adhere the terms of service. My anroid is now became useless

  • samsungrockz |
    16/06/13
    samsungrockz

    opera mini and mobile both supports hidden settings like opera:config or opera:cache. opera mobile has lot more settings. opera browser for android doesn't have any of these.

    also opera browser is so heavyweight that it often crashes in low end devices and also eats huge memory.

    opera mini has that "font data calculation" problem. so opera mobile is best by all things. 8)

  • Sheogorath |
    22/07/13
    Sheogorath

    "Another benefit of Opera browser over Opera Mini is that it has search built within the address bar itself (like Chrome), so you don't need to type a search in a separate box." The above quoted section is inaccurate in its implication that you have to open a separate tab to search in Opera Mini. Even using version 6.5 as I am, you only have to press the menu button to bring down the address bar, type my search term into it, then click 'Go'. If you're going to do a side-by-side comparison of different browsers, at least investigate them fully first! @ samsungrockz: I used to have that horrible 'font calculation' thing on Eclair, but I've not seen it since moving to a phone with Gingerbread. Time to upgrade?

21/10/14
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