Opera Mini for iPhone, Finally!

By  |  Monday, April 12, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Three weeks ago, Opera submitted the iPhone version of its Opera Mini browser to Apple for approval, and I cheerfully predicted it would show up on the App Store within a couple of weeks. I was off by one week: Mini is now available as a free download.

I figured the app would make it because…well, I couldn’t think of a reason why it wouldn’t. Apple isn’t involved in epic battle with Opera (unlike, say, Google). It can be pretty confident that Safari will remain by far the iPhone’s dominant browser even if Opera Mini does quite well. And hey, making trouble for browser companies that wish to run on your operating system is demonstrably bad juju.

Opera Mini’s signature feature is the way it compresses Web pages on the server side, then sends the browser a slimmed-down version to speed things up. So far, I’ve only tried the browser in the comfort of my own home. I used it on 3G and Wi-Fi, and it felt reasonably snappy but not outrageously more so than Apple’s Safari. I then put my phone into 2G mode, and Mini still did quite well–but it only seemed a bit swifter than Safari.

I happen to live in an area blessed with very solid AT&T coverage; in areas with shakier service, it’s possible that Mini might feel more strikingly fast.

Mini is in no way a Safari-killer. Its page rendering is much less attractive and desktop-like than Safari’s, and sometimes it’s just plain wrong. (Now that Mini is on the App Store, I hope that Opera continues to polish it up,) Like Safari, it doesn’t do Flash; unlike Safari, it also can’t play YouTube videos. Certain things about it feel a tad foreign on the iPhone, like its non-standard interface for copying text.

But though Opera Mini isn’t without its downsides, it has a number of attractive features which Safari doesn’t. One of them is one I use constantly on desktop browsers: the ability to search for text within a Web page. Its approach to juggling multiple pages feels more like tabbed browsing; it has a full-screen mode; it can save pages for offline reading; and it works with Opera Link, which lets you sync bookmarks among multiple copies of Opera. Overall, it feels like a slightly more feature-rich alternative to Safari, not a stripped-down wannabee.

In other words, it’s possible that some people will prefer Mini to Safari–or it least find it worth using on a part-time basis. Isn’t nice that they’ll get to make that decision?

Herewith, a few screen images–if you try the browser out, let us know what you think,

vvv

 

 

 
26 Comments


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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Hendra Says:

    Thanks, for the review.

    Been waiting for this since I got an Iphone months ago. Opera Mini now sit in where Safari Icon belong. As for Safari, its now on the last page of my Iphone. Don’t think I’ll be needing it ever again.

  2. Zip Says:

    Thanks, but me no want.

  3. Miche Doherty Says:

    I do a lot of my browsing in other apps (RSS, Twitter, Facebook…) and, when I follow a link out of an app or in an email, Mobile Safari opens by default. Without any way of changing that default, I simply wouldn’t find myself using Opera Mini very often. That was my experience with iCab: a decent browser, but I uninstalled it because I kept finding myself in Safari anyway.

  4. juandesant Says:

    I actually use iCab for many sites, specially because it can be told to fake a given User-Agent string. There are some “mobile versions” of sites that lack features the whole page has, and that would be useful from Safari… as iCab shows.

    iCab also has the full-screen browsing, and some other nifty features, but still has some quirks.

    I will add Opera Mini to my utility belt, but I think I will not be using it very often…

  5. ediedi Says:

    Mobile safari is very good. It’s the main reason I got into the iphone ‘eco-system’. The only things it’s missing: in-site text search and full-screen browsing.

  6. Russ Barrett Says:

    Opera seems to break a feature. Tapping on the status bar at top of screen does NOT take you to top of page, as it does in other programs.

  7. Renchub Says:

    I got it as soon as I saw this article. I like it, as a change of pace anyway. I think it is faster, and faster than my laptop on some pages.

  8. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    You have to be really uninformed to use Opera Mini on an iPhone. It surprises me that Apple approved such a dangerous app.

    Everything you type into Opera Mini is sent to Opera’s servers, and everything that the Web sites you visit send back to you is actually sent to Opera’s servers. That includes all of your usernames and passwords, and even the contents of encrypted sessions, such as banking or shopping.

    Not saying Opera are bad people, but you just don’t give anyone a copy of every single key on your keychain and a copy of every ID in your wallet, and a copy of your contact book and all your email and a list of everything you read. Even Google has nothing like that.

    On a feature phone, which Opera Mini was designed for, you don’t have any Web browser, so maybe it’s worth giving up all of your privacy to get one. On iPhone, you already have a desktop class Web browser with full privacy protections, so it’s very questionable to give up your privacy to run a browser with fewer features.

    Opera Mini’s advertised advantage is speed, but that is only true on 2G connections. On 3G and Wi-Fi, Safari is still faster. Wow, you’re getting almost nothing for giving up all your privacy.

    You also lose your HTML5 compatibility by switching from Safari to Opera Mini. There are 3 downsides to that: 1) pages you visit won’t look right or function correctly in many cases, 2) you can’t run any Web apps, which are your open alternative to App Store, and 3) you drive the cost of Web publishing up which is especially harmful to smaller publishers and user/publishers.

    It would have been great if Opera had created “Opera for iPhone” by bringing the interface features of their desktop Opera browser to iPhone, rather than bringing their feature phone browser to iPhone. They could have built the perfect iPhone browser for desktop Opera users, with the familiar “speed dial” and bookmark syncing with your desktop. Why they didn’t do that is a really interesting question. There are dozens if not hundreds of browsers on iPhone OS, so why put this kludge on there? Why not the real Opera browser?

    I warned all my friends not to install this from App Store. It’s the first dangerous app Apple has approved. I’m really disappointed in Apple for approving it. Opera could have done this as a Web app and users would have to take responsibility themselves. As a native app, users think it is safe because Apple approved it.

  9. pIx Says:

    Reply to “Hamranhansenhansen”

    Folks.. when you read Hamranhansenhansen’s rant, remind yourself that’s an Apple fan boy giving you his contorted conception of reality. I mean you can take a lessen on figure dancing, painting, video editing etc. from an Apple fan boy, but technical advice!!!!

    Go to http://www.opera.com/mobile/features/ and read for yourself what features Opera brings to the table. If those features matter to you, then download and try the software.

    As for me.. like “Hendra” above, Opera has taken the spot of Safari, which has been demoted to the very last page.

    PS: And since I have jailbroke my iPhone, I am working on replacing Safari as the system default so that other apps too open up Opera.

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