Thirteen months after Opera’s Opera Mini browser became the first and only full-fledged Web browser that Apple allows to compete with Safari on the iPhone, it’s back in version 6.0 for iOS–and the big news is that the new version is optimized for the iPad as well as the iPhone.
As before, Mini’s emphasis is on speed: it caches and compresses pages on the server side, so they pop into place really quickly on the device. It also lets you opt for lower-quality images (or no images at all) to speed things even further, and has a mode that strips out fancy formatting. It also tends to display the mobile-friendly versions of sites when available–the New York Times, TIME, and CNN, for instance, all show up in the text-heavy editions tailored for phones rather than the full-blown ones. (That looks a little odd on the iPad’s nice big screen.)
The new version of the browser has a higher level of polish than the original one: panning and zooming around is much smoother, and it now supports the iPhone 4′s high-res “retina” screen. For the most part, it does a nice job of feeling like an iOS app while simultaneously picking up on Opera elements such as showing thumbnails of the pages open in tabs. And it’s got some features that Safari lacks, such as the ability to share pages on Twitter and Facebook. One gripe: it has copy-and-paste, but the copying interface is non-standard and nowhere near as well thought-out as Apple’s version.
I’m not sure how many people who aren’t either raving Opera fans or starved for bandwidth while opt for Opera Mini as their primary iOS browser over Safari. But I’m glad that it exists, and that the Opera folks continue to beef it up. (Me, I use Atomic Web Browser–which adds more desktop-like features to Safari’s rendering engine–about seventy percent of the time on both the iPhone and the iPad.)