Opera Refreshes Android Browser With Much Needed Features [Video]


Anyone who knows me knows I’m a browser nut. I struggled for years to choose browsers on the desktop and even though I’ve found the right one for me (Chrome) I still can’t resist checking the competition every once in a while. Unfortunately, my addiction has gone mobile.

That’s why I was excited to learn that Opera would be launching versions 11 and 6 of their Mobile and Mini Android offerings respectively. Starting with Mini, they’ve finally added true multi-level pinch-to-zoom. Before, performing a pinch-to-zoom gesture would net the desired result, but it wasn’t smooth and you could only zoom in and out once to pre-determined levels.

Now, you can get as close or as far away as you need to as you can in countless other browsers. Opera Mini has quickly become a great option for those on older phones or for people who need to do a bit of browsing on a slow network. Due to the nature of the application, there is no flash support and there probably never will be.

That’s where Opera Mobile 11 comes in. It’s the browser for those who have decent/better than decent phones who can take advantage of a fast 3G or 4G network. The one complaint many had, though, was its lack of Flash support when Adobe debuted the Flash 10.1 player for Mobile.

This week’s update adds just that, thankfully. They’ve also apparently flipped the switch on hardware acceleration in this version, but we honestly couldn’t tell. (Unless that contributed to the lack of checker-boarding that used to plague the app.) Things still didn’t look as smooth as they do on iOS devices, but it was still a VERY usable and desirable browsing experience. The only thing I’d like to see now is improvement in the browser vendor’s rendering engine, but that’s still a bit of a problem on desktops. It’s getting there, though.

Finally, they’ve introduced the Honeycomb-specific version of their browser. There isn’t much to the update: it puts the status bar on top and shuffles a couple of the UI elements around. Other than that, it’s a good looking browser that does some good looking browsing. Check out video of the mobile versions above and the tablet version below.

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. It’s what I’d been waiting for, but alas I am disappointed. It still shows most mobile sites even with that feature unchecked and renders pictures so large that you can’t view them and text in the same zoom level.

  2. I didnt take away anything out of this? So you like it? is it the new best browser in your opinion? It added flash and mini pinch to zoom works better? this is news? FML

  3. xscope is still the best tablet browser I can find.. Nice try though Opera. Your pages still render funny.

  4. Finally flash, this is my favorite browser used on my Vibrant. I think Opera Mini is more fluid and better to use than Opera Mobile.

    Question though, which Opera is more for the high end phones like my Vibrant?

  5. My current daily driver is actually firefox, surprisingly. It loads faster than anything else, which I was shocked about. Opera is great for loading pages fast by compressing the data though, which is great if you are just trying to go for just the text which I often do too. Don’t really need a bunch of hi-res images loading when all you are after is information.

  6. It’s either Dolphin HD/Mini / Xscope / mirren or go home. Opera was crap on the desktop, crap on mobile phones and apparently, still is crap.

  7. Tried Dolphin and Xscope to no avail. Opera Mini doesn’t give me the full web. I’m using the default Android browser which is just fine – a tabbed interface (instead of new windows) is really all it is missing.

  8. stock browser, this all suck. tried them right now. ahaha

  9. I agree with Tim. Dolphin has a lot of nice features but so far every browser I’ve used pales against Stock in terms of speed. Sure others have a lot of functionality I wish Stock had but speed is all I want in a browser. Thats why I stopped using IE, Firefox and even Opera for Chrome.

  10. I like how they changed the user UI, and that’s about it everything else is reletively the same so this update was more of a cosmetic change than anything.

  11. I have a lot of respect for developers; it’s not an easy career path. In short, I hope these comments are taken as feedback rather than a snide attack.

    This is said to be a release candidate but it’s pretty clear that it’s not yet ready for prime time.

    The “mobile browser” ought to be able to do everything since it has 12 Megs of code. It does a number of things well but things seem to get progressively choppy as one surfs. On my phone (EVO, unrooted), images are sometimes distorted. Load times are inconsistent: sometimes very fast and sometimes very slow, which seemed to correlate with number of images to be rendered.

    Opera Mini has a very slick interface that looks very promising until you actually surf with it. Regardless of what settings I chose, almost all websites default to the mobile version. I compared Opera Mini to Dolphin Mini on a number of sites. One example: tested loading Huffingtonpost on both. Opera Mini froze up the first time, then eventually loaded the mobile version of the site. In contrast, Dolphin Mini loaded the full site immediately and quickly.

    I’m not trying to take any cheap shots or tell people what browser to use, but I think it’s fair to say that there are problems with this “release candidate.”

  12. Chopper that’s how Opera has ALWAYS been (even on the desktop). Inconsistent and buggy and how many years have they had to come up with something decent? Dolphin appeared almost overnight and was great from the get go. It renders pages the closest to that of a desktop browser and its Flash performance is the smoothest I’ve seen. Its tab browsing is great and its bookmark structure is convenient. I had a problem with a version, emailed the Dev, and it was fixed in the next release. What more can one ask for?

    That’s why I have few kind words for the devs of both Firefox mobile and Opera. They have the resources and have had the time – no excuses, sorry. And this beef with Flash that the Firefox Devs seem to have is just embarrasing.

  13. Opera is still fatally flawed by the fact that the entire program (and the web oage) needs to reload if you switch to any other application and then back to opera. So you have 10-15 seconds of nothing until Opera can work again.

  14. I actually think Opera Mobile has a lot of great features and cool ui elements going for it.

    Sadly, I’m not sure if they’re good enough to make up for some pretty slow load times in my opinion. I’m on WiFi and some of these relatively easy mobile sites even are taking a while to load up.

    On the other hand, I think the multi-level pinch-to-zoom is awesome! I also think the scrolling is extremely high quality. And the scrolling feature upon scrolling for a little bit and having that arrow pop up is really handy.

    I also think the lack of menu button implementation is interesting. Although it may seem counterintuitive, I think it’s nicer to have those graphics pop up from that button in the bottom-right-hand corner.

    Actually the feature that I hate so very much, and really the one thing holding me back from not making this my default browser, is the lack of an omnibar. Come on. When I press the search key, I’d like to be able to query google, AND be able to enter a website. Just querying Google seems so old, and not what I’m accustomed to at all…

  15. Dave: that’s because android wants more free RAM and decides to kill it.

    Quentyn Kennemer: that “honeycomb specific” version is not honeycomb specific.
    it’s the tablet interface, automatically loaded whenever the device you’re using is identified as tablet(perhaps through pixel density and resolution)
    i get that exact same interface on my froyo tablet.

  16. @John: “dolphin appeared almost overnight” – dolphin does not provide its own rendering engine, it’s pretty much an alternative interface to the stock browser. As such, they merely take advantage of Google/Apple/KDE’s wonderful work with WebKit. (Not dissing their work at all, I’ve used Dolphin HD and thought it was pretty cool.) Opera and FF on the other hand do provide their own rendering engines (Presto and Gecko, respectively), so there is a lot more work involved in porting these to run on Android. This is why there are rendering issues as well – however, in my own experience with web development, Opera has very few issues at all with pages that are written properly; it’s with pages that play to quirks in other browsers that issues pop up.

  17. Jerrad

    That may be true regarding Dolphin ( although I’ve seen it render many pages better than the stock), however, isn’t it the end result that matters? If a different rendering engine can’t perform as good as the Webkit offering when it’s all said and done, what’s the point? Accuracy, stability and compatibility are just as important as speed. I as an end user couldn’t care less about a web page’s quirks or how it was written, I just want it to look as close as possible to what it was meant to look like.

    And BTW I love Firefox on my desktop, so I know the Devs are talented. It just seems like they’re not very serious about their mobile offering.

  18. Opera… go open or go home. I tried using you many times and I like you a lot but I have lately chosen open products where possible and that means I don’t have you installed on any of my devices anymore.

    When I find a openSass alternative to Gmail, it will be bye bye gmail too. Google needs to go open or go home too, although I think it is on their road map and as the future unfolds, we will see if that is true.

    The future is open.

  19. @thedicemaster: how do we avoid that RAM hogging that ‘droid does? I use Firefox and get the same problem, where “stepping away” to another apparently for too long results in android nuking the browser and I lose wherever I was. HOW can we protect the browser from this?

    ALSO… I tried literally EVERY browser out there, for WM, for desktop, and yes, for Android. I also have a highly-customized website of my own, and use a few other websites with special features. I can tell you all that ONLY Firefox for Android is fully-compatible with my site and others, and where favorites like Dolphin and Opera fall short, Firefox’s beta actually does load what they cannot.

    One example of this is with text entry boxes with special formatting button bars and such. Most of these do NOT work on other browsers (including favorites Dolphin and Opera), but work on Firefox for Android.

    Another example is the loading of mobile versions of sites, when you want the desktop. Your browser is more than capable of loading it desktop-style, but your browser can’t seem to fool some sites (such as Yahoo mail). The ONLY browser able to defeat all of these seems to be Firefox. And with a free add-on you can actually emulate a number of different browsers (even iPhone).

  20. Am I the only one to like this new Opera Mobile 11?

    It is way much faster and smoother compare any other browsers.

    And you can change the user-agent easily! Go to “opera:config”, then use custom user agent in the user-prefs.

    The only thing I don’t like is the tabbed browsing is a bit annoying compared to Dolphin Mini.

    But, I really like the performance, smooth scrolling and Flash is working.

    I am using Nexus S, btw.

  21. After all the hoopla I gave it a try. My observations:
    -font rendering needs work. They seem rough around the edges.

    -speed is inconsistent. A couple web pages l loaded were quick and others seemed to stall.

    -Even with mobile sites turned off, some still load. Going into config should not be necessary, off should mean off.

    -flash performance is buggy and choppy. I clicked on a movie and the sound came up long before the video and stayed on even after closing the page – this never happens in Dolphin.

    All in all this seems like the same half-baked product all the previous versions have been.

  22. TURN ‘MOBILE SITE’ OFF if you want to view it normally.


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