Opera Mini 6 and Opera Mobile 11 – a stellar duet

Posted on 03/23/2011

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Opera software has launched the next generation of its mobile browser solutions, Opera Mini 6 and Opera Mobile 11. As you might already know, I am a big fan of Opera’s browsers. I use Opera Mini for my day-to-day browsing, Opera Mobile is set as the default browser for those moments when I’m no constrained with data, ie free WiFi, and I have recently switched to Opera on the desktop as well. Between the cost saving features of the Mini browser and the performance capabilities of Mobile, these two browsers in their previous incarnations, served all of my browsing needs on the N8 and the default browser has been relegated to a second class citizen. Now in their new guise, Opera has really stepped up to a whole new level.

At this point, you may be wondering what the difference between the two browsers is. Well Opera Mini started out as a solution for low powered devices and was written in Java, allowing deployment on ,multiple phones and platforms. The key to Opera Mini is that data is routed via Opera’s servers, stripped of all the fluff that bloats modern-day web pages and is then fed back to the user before you can say, ‘holy cow that was fast!’. As a result, pages as large as 1 Mb can be as tiny as 50 kb once the Opera servers have done their little bit of black magic. Opera Mobile on the other hand, gives you the full web experience at your fingerprints, well flash aside on Symbian, Android users on FroYo and above get the whole shebang! I don’t believe in benchmarks and timing everything with a stop watch as that’s rarely how things work m the real world, it’s about how things perform. Well Opera Mobile is blazing fast. I’ve played with the browser on the Samsung Galaxy, and while this is not up to those levels, visually it’s closer and offers better performance than version 10 and is significantly faster than the default browser, even when Flash is disabled in the latter.

Like Opera Mini 5, a native Symbian client is available with performance far ahead of the Java client. Startup times on my Nokia N8 are superb and navigating through the UI is brisk. I would say, looking at qualitatively, that version 6 is faster than the 5.1 beta that I was using before. Opera have really thought about the little things. When scrolling quickly through long pages, say when one is trying to get back to the URL and search bar, directional arrows magically appear that one can tap on to return to the top, or to the bottom of the page like for logging out of Facebook perhaps. Both browsers have a share option found by tapping on the big O in the bottom right hand corner of the screen, which replaces the old spanner. In Mini share allows one to post to Facebook, Twitter and My Opera. In Mobile it uses the system default sharing options. With weak integration with social networking in Symbian, this is limited to a Send option, which on my devices shows via Message, Mail, Bluetooth and Pixelpipe. Neither of those options is sadly not appropriate so on Symbian sharing links is going to be through Opera Mini mostly.


 

Pinch zooming is another notable addition to the updated versions. How far you can zoom in is limited by what you set your zoom level at in settings. Opera Mini has three zoom levels displayed as ‘small’, ‘medium’ and ‘large’ fonts. Opera Mobile is far more elegant, with zoom level set as a percentage ranging from 100% to 300% in 25% increments. When zooming in or out, Opera Mobile reflows text at each zoom point and the process is noticeable but quick enough to not be irritating. In what I suspect is a limitation of being delivered a pre-formatted page, column width is set in Opera Mini depending on orientation. So ideally you should choose the font size you want at maximum zoom, and work at that zoom as anything in between will not be reflowed. This is perhaps where the performance difference between the two browsers start to become apparent.

Text entry on the N8 and it’s sister devices is generally one of the weaker points, mostly due to the lack of split screen input. Opera tried to fix this by incorporating their own split screen QWERTY keyboard, but I personally was not a fan. Too narrow in portrait mode and without any aids like predictive text, or auto correct. Switching between characters and letters was not that smooth either. This keyboard is still here, but Opera have also managed to implement split screen input with Nokia’s default keyboard…are you paying attention Nokia!?!? It might lack multi-touch, meaning if you type too fast you’ll skip characters/letters, but I find with prediction on, correction set to display suggested word, and correction level set to medium, I can type quickly and accurately with this keyboard, as long as I don’t try to race through my words. It might seem trivial but basic things like auto complete for web addresses, impossible without a split screen interface, and entering captchas are now a breeze. So more brownie points for Opera for having to foresight to implement this.

 

Overall I must say that having used Opera Mini since the heady days of version 4 on my old Sony Ericsson, to my first impressions of Opera Mobile, these two version, 6 for Mini and 11 for Mobile are superlative, and certainly on the N8 are smooth and incredibly quick both in delivering data and UI responsiveness. I also have it on authority that Opera Mobile runs very well on the Samsung Galaxy S. To conclude, yet another super release from the Opera stable.

To download Opera on your Symbian and Android devices, point your browser to http://m.opera.com/next.

 

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Posted in: Apps, Mobile, N8, Nokia, Review, Symbian