First look: Opera Mini for iPhone

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Opera Software's free new Opera Mini browser for iPhone is now available in the US App Store. Here's a look at what it offers.



The Opera Mini browser accelerates browsing by running all the content you request through Opera's servers, which compress the content photos and other data before relaying it to your browser. This results in very fast loading, particularly if you're on a slow network connection. You can accelerate things even faster by turning on higher image compression if you don't mind a loss in graphics quality.



Around twice as fast to fully load web pages over 3G



In casual testing, Opera Mini was able to load websites between slightly faster and significantly faster over WiFi (loading theOnion.com took just 6 seconds, rather than 8 with Safari; loading Apple.com or NYTimes.com was only slightly faster; loading MacSurfer.com was only 4.8 seconds, compared to 7.8 on Safari), but really improved things when browsing over 3G.



There, theOnion.com loaded in 12.2 seconds compared to 18 on Safari; Apple.com dropped to 8.2 seconds from Safari's 16.1; NYTimes took 9.9 seconds rather than a whopping 40 seconds on Safari; and MacSurfer.com loaded in 7.9 seconds compared to 15 on Safari.



While fluctuations in mobile signals and the affect of page caching can distort the timings somewhat, overall the Opera Mini browser seemed to be around twice as fast at fully loading pages in general when using 3G, compared to the already fast Safari on an iPhone 3GS.



The browser experience



Both Safari and Opera present a web page that can be navigated and browsed around before the entire page continues to load, so the difference in load time does not actually reflect how long you have to wait before you can start reading the page you're visiting.



However, the Opera Mini browser renders small text as greeked out grey lines rather than the small but legible text on Safari, meaning that if you have good eyesight, you can read text on a detailed page without having to zoom in on Safari, while you often can't on Opera (below).



Opera Mini supports both double tap to zoom in as well as pinch to zoom, although with the pinch gesture, you can only zoom into tho one set level of zoom available; when you pinch again, you're zoomed back out. This is confusing and awkward. On Safari, you can smoothly pinch to zoom into any level up to the maximum zoom. You only zoom out if you do a reverse pinch gesture.







Because the Opera Mini browser is actually rendered by Opera's servers and then delivered to your phone's browser, sites that present a mobile version may default to a desktop appearance when using Opera Mini. For example, AppleInsider's custom iPhone site is not rendered by Opera Mini, but it rather defaults to the standard site. However, Facebook defaults to the touch site, although its a much more limited and stripped down version than that presented in Safari. There also appeared to be no option in Opera Mini to view the standard Facebook site.



Additionally, rather than presenting Flash content as a blank box with a blue Lego icon, Opera Mini renders it as a static graphic (as it does for theOnion.com's banner, below), or sometimes with a link to download the Flash plugin, which of course you cannot do on iPhone.







One nice feature Opera Mini has that Safari conspicuously lacks is the ability to search for text on a web page. This feature works pretty well, allowing you to jump through all of the search results one step at a time, with the search words highlighted on the page (below, left). The browser also presents a quick to navigate tabbed browsing experience (below, right).







Page rendering quality and native look & feel



Opera Mini uses the company's own browser engine rather than WebKit, which is used by Safari. This results in many pages not rendering properly, or not in the original page's standard fonts.



The NYTimes.com page had several problems with rendering a simple table of text, bulleted news items, and couldn't correctly render a section of tabbed listings (all three errors shown below; on the right most, the blank text area still had hyperlinks behind the invisible text).







Overall, the Opera Mini browser feels foreign as an iPhone app, with its settings configuration placed within the app itself rather than in the standard Settings page as mobile apps are supposed to do. Behaviors and the overall user interface feel more like an Android app or Linux PC program than a native iPhone app built to Apple's Human Interface Guidelines.



However, if you regularly browse the web in areas where you don't have WiFi or can't get a great mobile signal, Opera Mini may greatly speed up your ability to load pages, if you don't mind limited page zoom navigation and a few rendering bugs. And for free, the new browser is certainly worth a test drive to see if its for you.
«1345

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 85
    shadowshadow Posts: 373member
    Quote:

    Overall, the Opera Mini browser feels foreign as an iPhone app, with its settings configuration placed within the app itself rather than in the standard Settings page as mobile apps are supposed to do.



    As far as there is a tab bar anyway, I prefer having settings there rather than in the settings app. Did not try the Opera mini so no opinion on the rest of the stuff. Don't feel a real need for alternative browser, but in this particular case competition is a good thing.
  • Reply 2 of 85
    Unfortunately most pages don't serve you the iphone specific page, probably because the useragent string is different.
  • Reply 3 of 85
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,271member
    Interesting. I wonder if Opera had to sign a special agreement to ensure that the communication processed by Opera's servers is handled securely and with the users' personal privacy taken seriously.



    I wonder how long it's gonna take Mozilla to submit now, hehe.
  • Reply 4 of 85
    mactelmactel Posts: 1,275member
    Competition is always good. Apple could use the inspiration for the next release of the mobile Safari browser.
  • Reply 5 of 85
    29922992 Posts: 202member
    definitely my new browser of choice when on 2G
  • Reply 6 of 85
    insikeinsike Posts: 188member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Opera Mini uses the company's own browser engine rather than WebKit, which is used by Safari. This results in many pages not rendering properly, or not in the original page's standard fonts.



    Huh? So WebKit is the standard engine on the web? Wow.
  • Reply 7 of 85
    insikeinsike Posts: 188member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by palegolas View Post


    Interesting. I wonder if Opera had to sign a special agreement to ensure that the communication processed by Opera's servers is handled securely and with the users' personal privacy taken seriously.



    Opera has been doing this for several years. It's nothing new. The likes of AT&T, T-Mobile, Vodafone, etc. can vouch for them.
  • Reply 8 of 85
    myapplelovemyapplelove Posts: 1,515member
    I am very happy for opera, the innovations this company has brought in the browsing area probably outnumber pretty much every one else. It would have been a shame if they perished without any workable business model.



    And now they are offering finally to the iphone a robust solution to fast browsing, that will make a hell of a lot of difference in any area with inadequate mobile signal.
  • Reply 9 of 85
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by insike View Post


    Huh? So WebKit is the standard engine on the web? Wow.



    WebKit is pretty much the only mobile browser engine anyone uses. Firefox has Fennec, but its pretty scarce. Pocket IE is absolutely terrible. Opera has a small share and renders pretty roughly, as the photos show.



    WebKit also has about 16% of the desktop market, while Opera's engine has about 2% share. FF is around 46% and IE is now at 32% according to http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp
  • Reply 10 of 85
    Biggest Problem I have:



    No Bookmark Synchronisation.

    Maybe that will come some day ...
  • Reply 11 of 85
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Glockpop View Post


    WebKit also has about 16% of the desktop market, while Opera's engine has about 2% share. FF is around 46% and IE is now at 32% according to http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp



    Those figures don't represent what is happening over the whole of the web, they are only stats captured from visits to the w3schools websites. Those who are developing websites in html (i.e. those visiting W3schools) are much more likely to be technically inclined, therefore more likely to have an alternative browser. It even states this at the bottom of the stat page.
  • Reply 12 of 85
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Overall, the Opera Mini browser feels foreign as an iPhone app, with its settings configuration placed within the app itself rather than in the standard Settings page as mobile apps are supposed to do.



    Oh come on, there are thousands of iPhone apps that have their settings within the app itself. Even Tweetie, which won an Apple Design Award, and is about as "Apple-esque" as an app can be without being from Apple, has its settings within the app.
  • Reply 13 of 85
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,195member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SnakeSeries View Post


    Those figures don't represent what is happening over the whole of the web, they are only stats captured from visits to the w3schools websites. Those who are developing websites in html (i.e. those visiting W3schools) are much more likely to be technically inclined, therefore more likely to have an alternative browser. It even states this at the bottom of the stat page.



    His first statement that WebKit is the engine of choice for smart phones and thus the growth markets in mobile is correct.
  • Reply 14 of 85
    maccrazymaccrazy Posts: 2,656member
    Review is absolutely spot on. It feels unrefined but is fast. I suppose if I needed some quick info it would be good on 2G but otherwise I'll stick to Safari. However, the tabs feature is better and faster than Safari. Removing any animations does make it snappy but it instantly loses that iPhone feel.
  • Reply 15 of 85
    macapfelmacapfel Posts: 495member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Thorsten View Post


    Biggest Problem I have:



    No Bookmark Synchronisation.

    Maybe that will come some day ...



    I agree, I will will not jump on it also as long as this is missing.
  • Reply 16 of 85
    homsarhomsar Posts: 4member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Glockpop View Post


    WebKit is pretty much the only mobile browser engine anyone uses. Firefox has Fennec, but its pretty scarce. Pocket IE is absolutely terrible. Opera has a small share and renders pretty roughly, as the photos show.



    Statistics show that mobile Opera has similar market share to mobile Safari, at just under 30% each. Yeah, nobody uses Opera, everyone uses Safari.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Glockpop View Post


    WebKit also has about 16% of the desktop market, while Opera's engine has about 2% share. FF is around 46% and IE is now at 32% according to http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp



    Desktop usage stats have little relevance to mobile usage patterns.
  • Reply 17 of 85
    What a shame that Opera has totally failed capitalise on this opportunity.



    What were they thinking? The App totally misses the mark in terms of native iPhone UI standards and its page rendering is just as shocking as its desktop counterpart.



    Opera could have made itself relavent again with this release onto such a prevalent platform (60%+ of mobile browser market) but instead they released something which feels like a poor port from i can only assume their android/blackberry/symbian version...



    Poor page renders/some sites just broken

    Non native copy/paste ui / no loupe

    Man-in-the-middle decryption on SSL connections (don't care if it DOES make it quicker i want SSL for the security not for opera to be able to mine/sniff that traffic)

    No pinch to zoom / granular zooming

    Can't read a page unless zoomed



    Had they taken the time and care to realise this App using proper native implementations it could have been a real winner but it lasted about 2 minutes on my iPhone before getting deleted and it takes a lot for me to give an app a proper second chance when they've missed the mark so wide.



    What were they thinking?
  • Reply 18 of 85
    Opera phone browser has being around for years, there's even a browser SkyFire that can automatically and on the fly transcode all videos to a phone compatible format so you can see a web page completely with flash, wmv, avi, mov, etc, etc



    I CAD DO THIS IN A 1/4 the price phone, Nokia 5800, Apple is selling the iPhone juts because of Apple Brand, and people are really blind, I have several macs for years, but Iphone just isn't a great phone, YOU SHOULD TRY THE COMPETITION!!
  • Reply 19 of 85
    I believe the odd behaviour of the pinch and zoom in Opera is because Apple do not allow 3rd party Apps to use the pinch and zoom method we are used to in their own applications.
  • Reply 20 of 85
    carniphagecarniphage Posts: 1,984member
    I am shocked by what Opera have done to the scrolling on the iPhone.

    The kinetic scrolling has been made sticky.



    And on large pages, its difficult to scroll up/down - Opera seems to think we want to scroll diagonally!



    Scrolling is one aspect of the iPhone that certainly is not broken, and does not need fixing!



    C.
Sign In or Register to comment.