Probably the most significant aspect of the Opera Mini browser for the iPhone is that it was approved by Apple. While the browser itself may load pages faster than the iPhone’s native Safari browser, Opera Mini’s full-page browsing experience just isn’t going to see the hoards of devotees that its feature phone version has.
iPhone users will undoubtedly be intrigued at first glance. Opera Mini gives browsing on the iPhone a new look, as well as tabbed browsing, one-touch zoom, Speed Dial (for fast loading of frequently visited sites) and Opera Link, which allows synchronization of everything from bookmarks to notes between browsers.
Nevertheless, Opera Mini still feels cumbersome when compared to the experience of browsing the Internet with Safari. While Opera may load the page faster, it’s loading the entire page and the type at first glance is so small it’s unreadable. I had to tap-to-zoom at least a couple of times before locating what I was looking for on any given Web page. The experience is akin to trying to locate a small town on a map using a magnifying glass.
As for Opera’s Speed Dial feature, there’s little new here. Speed Dial amounts to a home screen within the app that allows users to create one-tap icons for Web sites that they visit frequently. The resultant effect is redundant, in that Safari already allows users to save Web sites as icons to their iPhone home pages. The UI itself is rather nice, and there are little niceties along the way that might be seen as improvements over Safari. I specifically liked the option to press and hold a link within one page, and the resultant option to open that link in another page.
The best part about Opera Mini is its speed on otherwise slower networks. The company employs compression technology that enables Opera Mini to chug right along even when marooned on an EDGE network. In fact, in its press release today, Opera boasts that “users of the app will notice an uptake in speed, especially on slower networks” such as EDGE. I’ll keep Opera Mini docked on my iPhone for this reason alone, but I’m pretty sure that Safari will remain my go-to browser.
I have to admit that there’s delicious pleasure in having a second mobile browser on the iPhone. In fact, pretty much anytime an iPhone user gets a taste of the outside world, it leaves us longing for more. My guess is that Apple users won’t so much be applauding Opera Mini as they will be wondering whether this precedent means mobile versions of Firefox and Google Chrome might be coming their way.