Opera Mini v4 Mobile Web Browser

Released in November of last year, the latest offering of Opera Mini, version 4, hasn’t really sent shockwaves through the World of cell phones. Whilst the iPhone browser (which I think is very annoying!) has been hailed as a revolutionary success, Mini has taken the sidelines slightly, but as I have learned, this isn’t really a position it deserves.

Supported by any cell phone with Java, Opera Mini is extremely compatible, and very capable of turning an ordinary phone into one with the same web browsing facilities that one might only associate with a smartphone. The use of a Java interface slows start-up to a certain extent, but after getting used to this twenty or thirty second wait for the web, it really isn’t a problem.


For a free piece of software, Opera is very powerful indeed. For me, top of the list is the small-screen rendering. For a long while, I have been ever so slightly fed up of having pages squashed and having chunks missing when using other mobile browsers. Mini 4 shows the user a fullscreen overview of the page and then decides a good starting point, which it suggests you zoom to. Another feature that stands out is the synchronization with a PC. The browser uses a ‘mouse’ for the user to choose a point to zoom to, and by giving the option to synchronize bookmarks with your main browser, Opera allows you to move between your PC and mobile device without noticing too many interface differences.

Admittedly, this new found mouse does take a little getting used to, as do some of the shortcuts, which, as they are useful, bear no resemblance to those on conventional desktop browsers…

Oh, and what’s more, you can very quickly switch to the new landscape mode – very iPhone huh!

But on the subject of speed, I didn’t really notice much of a difference with a conventional mobile browser, but considering that the page is being rendered to the size of your screen, the average 16 seconds or so that it takes to load BBC News site (dependent on your connection…) is pretty impressive. The Mini browser works by sending your page to the Opera servers for ‘processing’, before being returned to your phone compressed, and therefore as a slightly smaller file. This will inevitably bring down data charges, however if you have a data plan this isn’t a problem, and at peak times, the Opera servers perform much slower.

There are the occasional niggly things that I have noticed though; the difficultly to save images, the menus are a bit annoying occasionally, and it has a fairly high crash rate. But no other browsers can offer quite what Opera Mini can, and for those reasons, I can look over these problems to a certain extent!

But overall, a real success… The browser was nice and easy to use, had a quick installation, and the compatibility with such a wide range of handsets is a real bonus. It is worth pointing out that the interface is greatly improved if you learn your shortcuts! :o)

And as for the desktop, I’m still a Firefox boy at heart…

 

Product Information

Price:
Manufacturer:Opera
Requirements:
  • A mobile device with Java
  • WAP/GPRS/3G Internet Access
Pros:
  • Free!
  • Easy to use, simple interface
  • Compatibility
  • No more squashed up pages!
Cons:
  • Can be slow at times
  • Slow start-up
  • A few annoying little problems...
Posted in: Windows Phone

9 comments… add one

  • Eric February 20, 2008, 9:48 am

    I don’t see how you can mix these two statements, “But overall, a real success…” and “it has a fairly high crash rate.”

    It seems to me that a piece of software is useless if it crashes.

    That is one of the things about Opera that has bugged me over the years. It doesn’t matter what version I use, no matter how many patches I install, it always crashes.

    If we applied the “Opera” principal to automobiles, we’d all run high-octane fuel with nitrous-oxide. Then all our cars would be really fast and we’d save all kinds of time going to and fro, except for the few times that cars burst into flames, right when they are merging into freeway traffic…

    If software crashes when I’m doing work, I just can’t see how it improves my productivity.

  • Tomas February 21, 2008, 7:46 am

    Eric… Whilst I see your point, and perhaps it’s just the fairly poor way that I have conveyed this idea into words :o), but as buggy as Opera is, and always has been (that’s why I don’t use it on my PC!), we have never really seen anything like Opera Mini for the mobile software market; it’s free, easy to use, it renders your pages in a ‘desktop style’, easy synchronisation, compatability – that’s a success.

    I don’t mean to promote the browser too much, I just see it as much more of a successful and useful tool than any other mobile browser I have ever used. A quick scout of the internet will find many more people with the same view.

    And, on your other point, our software industry is very different to the car industry and I’m not sure we can make direct comparisons… :o)

    [Edited at February 21, 2008 17:46:35 PM.]

  • Daniel Goldman February 21, 2008, 1:10 pm

    “the latest offering of Opera Mini, version 4, hasn’t really sent shockwaves through the World of cell phones”

    I think the numbers tell a different story of the success of Opera Mini 4. We’ve had over 35 million downloads of Opera Mini. There are more than 100,000 downloads of Opera Mini each day. In addition, the Opera Mini servers processes over 1.5 billion pages each month. These numbers clearly show the great interest in Opera Mini and mobile Web browsing.

    “it has a fairly high crash rate”
    I don’t share the same experience with Opera Mini on my Samsung mobile phone. There apparently is some issue with your phone. I suggest you post about it in the Opera Mini Forums (http://my.opera.com/community/forums/forum.dml?id=111) — hopefully we could troubleshoot and figure out what’s going on with your phone. We aim to get Opera Mini working on as many phones as possible.

    Daniel
    Opera Software

  • Tomas February 21, 2008, 5:46 pm

    Daniel, thanks for having a look at the review.

    Whilst I see that the numbers are very impressive, I was simply making the point that when talking to the average phone user, they would have no idea about what Mini – or indeed much about the mobile internet market – something that, I think, appears to have been somewhat dominated by Apple… I mean, talk about the iPhone browser and you’ll be greeted with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the features, say Opera and you are greeted with a blank face – that’s marketing! Perhaps the statement, “the latest offering of Opera Mini, version 4, hasn’t really sent shockwaves through the World of cell phones”, should have been prefixed by “Regrettably”!

    As far as crash rate is concerned, I experienced, as I said, a high one, and so have others that I know who tried out the software – the comment above from Eric also shares that perspective over Opera products as a whole. Perhaps a contributing factor was the Symbian S60 OS which you wouldn’t have on your Samsung – it can be somewhat temperamental!

    But I don’t mean to be negative – I really do like this browser and it is something that I think the mobile industry has needed for a long while – as I said to Eric – “it’s free, easy to use, it renders your pages in a ‘desktop style’, easy synchronisation, computability…” – I hope I made this clear in the article!

    I think my wording of ‘a fairly high crash rate’ could be improved and I’m not entirely happy with how I wrote this, but all in all, apart from the cons I have noted, this really is a superb piece of software.

    Tom

    [Edited at February 22, 2008 04:46:19 AM.]

  • Daniel Goldman February 21, 2008, 7:20 pm

    Tom,

    You’re right. The iPhone has the ‘Apple wow’ factor, which most other products don’t. As for the mobile Web, I think the public needs more education on it. Most people don’t expect to be able to browse the Web on their phones.

    It would be helpful to know the phone models that you and your readers are using. I’ll pass the crash information along to the Opera Mini team. It would also help if you send me some specific error information (if you can).

    Daniel (not Dave)

  • Tomas February 22, 2008, 4:49 am

    Daniel,

    If you’d like to contact me by email – you can get my address by clicking on ‘Tomas’ in the bottom right of this message – that’s easier than using the comments system!

    Thanks,
    Tom

  • Mike February 29, 2008, 7:56 am

    I had to go back to Opera Mini 3. I really like a lot of the functions on Opera Mini 4, but I constantly get “Error 533: …exceeded the number of bytes allowed per connection.” I’m using the AT&T Blackberry Curve 8300. I think this is a more of a function of the Blackberry Enterprise Server limitations rather than something wrong with the software, but it really limits the effectiveness of the software (to the point that I can’t use it). I believe that there is a Blackberry server software upgrade coming as well as an OS upgrade which will hopefully resolved issues like these.

  • Lou March 6, 2008, 1:18 pm

    With my HTC Touch and Windows Mobile 6 I had many problems with Opera Mini. First there are the nagging screens and then the instability issues. I have been trying a beta version of Opera Mobile (9.33?) and it sounds promising, but it takes over the whole device! If you hit a link in an email message you no longer have access to Explorer and there seems to be no way to change this:(

  • Jim Travis March 8, 2008, 1:47 am

    I have used Opera Mini 4 on a HP 210 (WM6), a Dell x51v (WM5), a Sprint PPC-6700 smartphone (WM5), and a Toshiba e830 (WM2003SE). On all four devices, Opera Mini has done an excellent job displaying full internet pages, and has been exceptionally stable. I prefer Opera Mini 4 to Safari on the iPod touch. Safari sometimes has a problem with older, single column webpages unless the webpage developer has added a Viewport metatag. In order to view some older webpages at a comfortable reading level with Safari, you have to zoom to a level which requires horizontal scrolling to read each line which gets old after about 2 lines. Unfortunately, Safari does not wordwrap again when you use the pinch zoom which is sometimes required because the double tap zoom does not enlarge the text on some single column pages to a comfortable reading level. With Opera Mini, there is a setting for mobile view which results in old single column webpages word wrapping correctly, and allows you to read them at a comfortable text size without the dreaded horizontal scrolling. With Opera Mini 4, you can display just about any full internet page, and still display the old webpages correctly.

    Apple’s Safari may get all the hype, and press, but for me, Opera Mini gives the better internet experience for both the full, and mobile internets.

    [Edited at March 08, 2008 01:54:01 AM.]

    [Edited at March 08, 2008 01:57:39 AM.]

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