Well there’s a shocker… after the Opera Mini Web Browser was submitted to Apple for approval in March, it has now actually been approved and landed in the App Store! It’s the first browser not based on the WebKit browser engine that’s been allowed on the Store to rival Safari on the platform, and may open the doors for a number of other browsers in the future such as Mozilla’s Fennec project, which currently only caters for a small number of platforms.
The approval of Opera Mini on the iPhone certainly came as a surprise to me and many others who thought that the bid to get an Opera web browser on the iPhone was a foolhardy one that was no more than a publicity stunt. The key to Opera being accepted? It’s a proxy browser, so all compression of data happens on Opera’s servers after the web page request has been sent. It’s then sent back to your phone where it’s displayed.
Opera Mini already has over 50 million users worldwide (on various platforms) and promises to deliver a faster browser experience to the user by compressing data by up to 90% before sending it to the user’s device. It’s this technology that may have encouraged Apple to support the browser on the iPhone platform, with it drastically reducing data usage and delivering web pages considerably faster than Apple’s Safari, especially when surfing with a 2G connection.
It’s great for users who have strict data usage agreements on their iPhone plans, as they can browse the web for a lot longer without going over their data plan with compressed pages being sent to their device.
The user interface of the browser offers the same experience as it does on other platforms such as with the Opera Mini Web Browser Android App. All of the browsers navigational controls are shown in a black bar at the bottom of the screen so that it doesn’t intrude on your web browsing. From here, you can navigate back and forward between visited pages with a simple tap, and refresh the page using the refresh button included in the bar also.
Where Opera Mini truly excels on the platform is navigation between tabs. Using the tab manager, all of your tabs are displayed in a slide up window that allows you to navigate between web pages open in your tabs with ease. The thumbnail previews offered are a great size so you know what’s on each tab and can get to where you want to be in no time. Removing a tab is as simple as tapping on the cross at the corner of the previews, and a new tab can be brought up at any time by tapping on the “+” preview pane at the right hand side of the previews.
Settings are incredibly easy to access, with a small icon on the navigational bar bringing up a slide-up window that contains a grid of choices where you can view your history, take a look at your bookmarks, go to the start page, edit settings and more.
Another great feature if you use the Opera browser for the desktop is one called “Opera Link”, which synchronises all of your bookmarks, speed dial and preferred search engines between your desktop and mobile device. This is done using your Opera account, which if you don’t have one, can be simply set up.
If you’re an iPhone or iPod Touch user, you should definitely check it out by downloading the Opera Mini iPhone Web Browser App from the App Store, especially if you don’t have a fast 3G connection all of the time as your browsing speed will be improved significantly.