Opera Mini Web Browser [iTunes link] for the iPhone has a few features that should have shipped with the iPhone – Opera’s Speed Dial homepage, searching for specific text within a web page and the choice to remember passwords.
Launching the Opera Mini browser for the first time will take you to a screen with a brief overview of its main features, after which you will always see your Speed Dial screen. Opera Mini comes preloaded with a few sites already added to your Speed Dial: CNN, MyOpera, Facebook and BBC News. If you want remove any of these, click on its icon and hold down until a menu appears with the choice to either clear or edit the slot. If you want to add a new site, simply click on one of the empty slots and enter the information. Any sites you have already visited will be conveniently listed for you to choose from.
Another feature where Opera excels over Safari is its search bar. Using the search bar next to the address bar, you are given the choice of using Google, Amazon, Dictionary.com, eBay, IMDB or Wikipedia. It’s possible to remove any one of these search engines, but if you’re a fan of Bing or other search engines, you’re out of luck, because there is no way to add alternatives.
Opera boasts tabbed browsing, which is executed in a slightly similar way to Safari, in that when you have several tabs open, an icon at the bottom of the screen will show you how many web pages you have open. Moving between these pages in Opera Mini, however, is a very different experience than in Safari. Rather than swiping between screens, clicking on the icon will pull up a small screen with thumbnails of each tab that is open to select from. You can continue to open and close additional tabs using this menu.
One of the best features in the Opera Mini browser is the ability to control opening a link in a new tab. Clicking on a link and holding it down will bring up a small menu where one of the choices is to open it in a new tab. Opera’s “long click” can be used in a second way – to select text on the screen. After choosing that option, simply swipe your finger over the section of the text you would like select, and it will be highlighted. You can then choose to copy that text, or to search for that selection using the search engine of your choice. It has to be said, however, that Apple’s copy and paste method is a little bit more user-friendly. Clicking a picture and holding it down will bring up a small menu allowing you to save the image, or open it in a new tab.
Some may argue that storing passwords on a mobile phone is a security threat that they would rather not risk. Either way, Opera gives the user to choice to save passwords or not. When this option is switched on, when you log into any given web page, you will be asked whether or not you want to save the password.
If you use Opera on your desktop, you will be happy to know that the Opera Mini browser also includes its Opera Link feature, which allows you to sync your bookmarks, speed dial and search engines between your iPhone and computer.
And of course it has all the standard features to be expected in a browser – a decent bookmarking system and the ability to browse through your history.
So the only question left to answer about Opera Mini is the browsing experience itself. Setting Opera Mini to full screen mode allows you to dedicate more of the screen to browsing rather than menus, so aesthetically, it definitely has one up over Safari. With Opera Mini you can open all web-pages in a mobile format – regardless of whether or not the site in question offers the option. When you’re on Edge or 3G – this is an extremely handy feature. In the screenshot below, you can see the difference on the BBC News website when opened in it’s normal state, and when opened using the ‘Mobile view’ setting.
When you zoom in on a webpage, you will discover another interesting little feature that Opera Mini offers – you can use the back button to zoom back out to fit the web page to the screen. But in general, the pinch and zoom method feels a little bit laboured using Opera, and web pages look a little bit better in Safari.
Testing out the speed on Safari versus Opera Mini gave us varied results. In some cases, Safari loaded faster, while in others, Opera Mini got there quicker. The differences however did not seem in any way significant to push users in the direction of one browser over the other, although Opera Mini’s initial load up time can sometimes be surprisingly long. Only time will tell if Opera Mini can sway long-time Safari users away from their default browser.
Have you tried out Opera Mini [iTunes link] for the iPhone yet? Let us know what you think of it in the comments.