Opera Mini: Best Mobile Web Browser Bar None


I think the new Opera Mini is just about the best thing I've ever seen on a mobile phone. Really! It's easily the best Java app I've ever seen, and actually I think it's probably the best Mobile Web Browser there is out there - native smart phone apps included. I've been using it since last summer when Opera gave us a preview at Yahoo! and it was pretty great then, and they've done nothing but improve on it since. Today they've officially launched it world wide, so click on the link or view mini.opera.com from your mobile phone and grab it now!

Here's the things that separate it out from every other app out there:

First, it's small and easy to download and install. At 100k, even my GPRS-only Sony Ericsson W800i phone downloaded and installed it in less than a minute. This should not be overlooked - Opera has made the process dead-simple by providing direct access to the download (no registration, or multiple page views needed) and paid attention to the size of the app to make sure there's no bloat. It seems simple, but these two things alone separate Opera Mini from 90% of the mobile apps out there.

The app starts quickly, with a clean page and an inviting logo and you immediately notice when the first page comes up that the fonts are incredibly readable and use the screen efficiently. Mobile phone fonts are generally awful, so Opera does everyone a favor and draws the fonts for us - with an extra-small option that's still readable and provides for much more content per screen. This is pretty awesome - anti-aliased fonts on my phone? Rock on. This alone separates it out from every other mobile browser that exists today - every other one uses the native fonts, and they all look horrible. Opera really nailed it with this feature.

Next, the speed of the downloading is incredible. It makes GPRS seem A LOT faster - i.e. actually usable. Not only must they be doing compression and down-sizing of pictures on the server, they must be managing cellular latency really well. Latency is the nemesis for all mobile Internet apps. So where other mobile browsers will be dumb and create new requests to the Internet for each image or file that makes up a web page (taking latency hits each time) Opera Mini's architecture allows it to make only one connection to the server and get perceptably huge speed increases as a result. Like I said, I'm using it right now to browse around on my GPRS phone, it feels like a handset with a much faster connection.

The speed of the app itself is also impressive. Other apps I've seen like this are sluggish to say the least, but Opera Mini is always responsive, even while downloading a relatively huge page like my 300+ subscriptions in Bloglines or my blog. This is probably due to the fact that the bulk of the processing happens on the server - so they're not forcing a small mobile phone to parse HTML or render massive images - instead they send down only what the app needs to know in order to display the page. But that's not to downplay how well the client is made either: Clicking to the left/right will page up/down, and not only is it fast, but it has smooth-scrolling! Huge pages can be navigated really quickly this way, without getting lost at all. And the user interface is well done too - it never leaves you wondering what's happening. As soon as you click a button, the bottom status bar changes to tell you what's going on and how long you have to wait. This helps expectations and user perception considerably.

Finally, the app Just Works(TM) as you'd expect. Yes, not every web page will look perfect - the CSS-linked header image on my blog doesn't show up for example - and not every Javascript on a page will work perfectly, but it's surprising how great the pages look and how usable many websites are on a small screen. I think Opera has really done an amazing job on this app. I expect huge things from this - it could even become its own platform. I bet you could easily base a new web-based business around this browser, it's that good. Though I have to mention that neither Yahoo! nor Google JavaScript-based advertising is shown on any of the pages I've seen so far. That should be fixed.

Definitely a must have app for any mobile phone you have. Congrats to everyone at Opera who made it happen!


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