It can claim to have brought REAL browsing to handsets with Opera Mini, but of late Opera has been facing some very stiff competition from the likes of UC Browser, Dolphin and the mobile avatars of Chrome and Firefox. The company, however, has never really been known for sitting still and has been tweaking its browsers (when we last checked, it had browsers for tablets, desktops and handsets) endlessly, adding and trimming. And with the new Opera, which is finally out of beta and works on a new rendering engine (WebKit), it can claim to have really given its mobile browser a good makeover.
The browser is available for free download, and tips the scales at 14.31 MB. Installation is zippy. And you know that this is a new Opera within seconds of launching the browser. The basic interface has been cleaned up and the landing screen is now divided into three sections – Speed Dial (which contains icons representing your favorite sites – a sort of visual bookmark section), History (sites you visited) and most interesting of all – Discover.
Discover is a rather interesting concept – it aggregates content under different heads and displays it in a two columnar format with each news item in a box of its own. So you can actually end up getting your news updates from within the browser without having to open any sites. There are currently thirteen topics in the Discover section and you can pick and choose from them, and also make them nation-specific. Before you ask, no, you cannot get social network updates in this format – this is pretty much news oriented stuff here. No, we cannot see ourselves giving up the likes of Flipboard and Pulse for this, but we definitely see ourselves heading to it straightaway whenever we open the browser. Is it the “best thing to happen to a browser since the back button” as Opera modestly refer to it in their press release? We are not too sure, but it is definitely a very neat touch.
Moving on to the rest of the browser, it is business as usual, which is not a bad thing, given that there was not too much wrong with Opera anyway. The data compression that is the hallmark of Opera Mini is here as well, although it’s called Off-Road mode here – it still works very well in areas with slow connectivity, although image quality tends to get butchered. There is also a download manager, multiple tabbed browsing, and Opera Link, which lets you synchronize your speed dial and bookmarks across different devices as long as you are using Opera. A very significant improvement however is that of text-wrapping – the art of resizing text to fit the screen so that you do not have to scroll sideways while reading. We have seen many browsers do so, but the new Opera elevates it to a new level – we zoomed in to the point when we could just see one or two words per line and yet the text fit the screen perfectly. A very nice touch is the fact that you can move the URL bar (which also doubles up as a Web search box) to the bottom of the screen if you wish – handy in this era of super large displays.
Most significantly, Opera’s decision to move to the WebKit rendering engine results in a decent turn of speed while browsing the Web. No, we won’t say it is the fastest browser we have ever used but that is only because it is rather difficult to say which one is fastest these days as there are so many brisk operators. But it certainly does enough for us to place it alongside Chrome as one of our favorite browsers on Android.
Available from: Google Play