First impressions of Opera Mini for iPhone

Opera logoOne of the highlights of our trip to this year’s Mobile World Congress was the chance to see the new iPhone version of Opera in action.

The announcement of the Beta version of Opera Mini 5.0 was conducted in a tentative, almost hush-hush manner. Press were not allowed to take photos or video of the software and Opera made it clear that the new browser isn’t designed to run on jailbroken iPhones, and nothing will be available to download until the app has been sent to Apple and approved. The good news is that we were privileged enough to get a private demo of Opera Mini for iPhone.

Opera Mini will be marketed as a replacement for the Safari browser that exists natively within the iPhone. It’s fair to say that this new offering from everyone’s favorite Norwegian software developer makes Safari look distinctly old and sluggish. The new browser features Opera’s much-copied Speed Dial screen, giving you access to favorite pages with a single tap. These favorites can be synced to any other version of Opera on a desktop or mobile device.

Opera demonstrated the speed of the new browser by first loading the New York Times site in Safari, then in Opera. The Apple browser took a whole minute to completely render the page, whereas Mini did it in just 15 seconds. Opera manages to make speed improvements by compressing pages on its own servers and delivering them at lightning speeds.

The user interface of Opera Mini for iPhone is much the same as it is on other mobile platforms. There’s no zoom button, but a simple tap on an image will enlarge it. Opera has been careful to meet the strict recommendations of Apple’s SDK, including utilizing the built-in keyboard and no button to exit the app.

Opera Mini for iPhoneUnfortunately, the anticipated support for Flash in Opera Mini hasn’t materialized. Go to YouTube and you land directly on the mobile site. Each video opens individually on the phone’s internal drive, as is the case with other versions of Opera Mini.

Multi-page browsing is a lot slicker in Mini that it is in Safari. While the default Apple browser displays a little icon stating how many pages are hidden behind, Opera displays them as tabs, making for a much more comfortable experience.

Overall, we were mightily impressed with Opera Mini for iPhone. It’s very quick and very easy to use, which are the two prerequisites for a mobile web browser. The browser combines the features that made Opera such a success on the small screen, with the technical prowess of the iPhone. Make no mistake, this is a marked improvement on Safari.

Opera Mini is still not without flaws, and we noticed that it displays some sites in their traditional web version, rather than the mobile-ready version. Of course, it’s still in beta, so these things will surely get ironed out over time. For goodness sake, it’s not even on the App Store yet!

[Via: OnSoftware France]

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