Opera Mini 4 ReviewMikey 1 comment
Opera is actually a good browser, and I could never understand why it still has such a small user base. There are a lot of things to like about it, but the lack of web developer plug-ins and add-on architecture make it a no-show on my desktop, as Firefox beats all browsers in this area.
As Mozilla are still yet to release a mobile browser, and the Nokia browser is starting to show its limitations, I was recently compelled to try Opera Mini 4.
I had tried the previous version of Opera Mini but it severely let me down, during the times it was actually able to launch. Thankfully version 4 is a big step in the right direction, and after using it full time for a week, today I can safely say I will never go back to the Nokia Browser again.
As I will need a point of reference to review Opera Mini 4, I am going to be throwing in the occasional comparison to the Nokia browser that ships with the Nokia N95.
Opera Mini 4 borrows some of the swankier features from the iPhone browser, which is a good thing. It also borrows features from its big brother desktop version, notably the homepage display, albeit in a more mobile friendly layout.
The homepage shows the address field, a link to your bookmarks, your most recent pages visited, and an assortment of links to popular web sites such as MySpace. Unfortunately there appears to be no way to change or remove these links.
The entire web page is rendered and shrunk to fit. This takes a little longer than expected but you have to realise in order for this to work every page you request is actually captured and rendered on the Opera servers before your receive it. On average this takes about 3 seconds longer for each page to load, and up to 8 seconds if you are connecting via 3G. But you soon get used to it.
Once a page is loaded you can manually position a zoom box over the area you want to fill the screen. Clicking the 'back' soft key and you will see the entire page again. It's an easy way to navigate a web page that doesn't actually fit in a 320 x 240 resolution. Every zoom state is also committed to history, so when you start going back to previous pages it will put you exactly where you were on the page. Compare this to the Nokia browser, which does let you navigate back to the previous page but it loads the page all over again, particularly annoying when the part you were looking at last was anywhere but the top of the page.
Bookmarks are easy to manage but saving a bookmark takes up to 10 seconds before you can resume using the browser. I can not account for this long delay but I can only guess the Opera servers are involved with this process as well.
The options page has several features to make mobile browsing easier. One of the best is called 'Mobile view'. If you have ever used , you might be familiar with a setting in the preferences which allows all web sites returned in the search results to be displayed in a mobile friendly format. What actually happens is Google analyses the source code first and establishes a site map, and then makes sure that all links, buttons etc are easily accessible. Of course this only works for web pages you access from the search results. The 'Mobile view' option in Opera Mini 4 does exactly the same thing, but with every web page you view. I might add it seems to do a better job than the Google mobile alternative.
Changing the text size can also improve your browsing experience significantly, but the smallest text option is remarkably small even for a mobile device.
One of my biggest gripes with the Nokia browser is its inability to cache pages during the same session. This means going back to previous pages forces another reload of all the data and consequent bandwidth consumption. Using Nokia's browser will mean you are paying twice for returning to a previous page, and thrice if you go back again. This isn't much of an issue on a Wifi connection, but using a mobile network like 3G and you will soon see it starts to add up quickly. To help you understand why this is important, look at this extract from my last bill:
That's nearly $6 for 1.3mb of data (about the equivalent of 1/3 of an MP3). That works out at roughly $1 for every 220k. To put that into perspective, if I paid those prices on my home Internet plan, I would be paying over $16,000 per month.
Luckily I get $300 worth of free calls and data per month on my current plan, so I won't feel any sting. But with insane pricing like that you can understand why some people who don't understand what they are doing can get hit with an $97,000 phone bill.
My point is the better job your mobile browser can do with regards to not reloading pages you have already visited, the better it will be on your wallet.
I am pretty happy with Opera Mini 4 but there are some small annoyances. These pale in comparison when compared to the alternative of returning to the Nokia browser. The dev team have obviously pulled their collective socks up and gotten busy, resulting in the best version of Opera mini to date. And just like Firefox, I will be preaching Opera Mini evangelism from this day on.
If you haven't yet tried it grab a copy. It's free and easy to install, and there are versions for all sorts of mobile devices.