Technology: Opera Mini for iPhone

I wanted to take a moment to give props to “The Apple Blog” and their recent article about “choice coming to the Apple Appstore.” I think overall it’s a good article with the message that Opera brings choice to the App Store, at least a little bit. However, I don’t consider it a review of the browser itself, so I wanted to talk about Opera vs Safari a bit. I would like to point out that if you’re not familiar with Opera Mini on another phone or mobile device, Opera is a great browser. Definitely better than most, if not all, of the built-in browsers out there. This is where the iPhone differs, in my professional opinion, and yes, I really mean that. I am a tech professional and it’s my job to find flaws, understand differences, and relate those differences in a meaningful way.

I want everyone to understand, I’m not picking sides with any of this, but there are some obvious differences between the iPhone built-in (Safari) and the new kid on the block (Opera 5 Mini). One of the first things I tried, and was totally stoked to think would just be awesome was “Google Reader.” Google Reader is by far one of my most enjoyable experiences with a web-based service on the iPhone. Let’s look at what the experience was like:

Google Reader via Mobile Safari

Safari Rendering Google Reader

Opera Rendering Google Reader

As you can see, the functionality is vastly different, and honestly, not what I expected to see from such a venerable browser on such a widely used and cool platform. The bigger problem than the interface of my favorite web-reader is that the interface doesn’t seem to be able to be changed. There aren’t too many settings within Opera Mini that I’ve found to be truly useful as far as rendering. So I thought I’d try another well-known site:

Safari Rendering The Apple Blog

Opera Rendering The Apple Blog

I think again, you can see differences, though much less telling on a regular site than something like Google’s RSS reader, but there are still rendering differences. One thing you can see though is that the page is completely loaded on Opera in both instances. Safari is still loading T.A.B. in this screenshot, and the screens were all taken within the first 10 seconds of the page call.

So yes, Opera is a viable alternative, but there are compromises one must make to use the browser I think. If turning off the “mobile” view was possible, I would’ve done so, and there’s even a setting for it, but for Google Reader, it didn’t seem to do anything. Another thing I had to do was to go into “Fullscreen Mode” because the default mode is just too tight for my tastes. The tab mechanism is extremely good, fluid, and easy to use however and overall the browser not only feels polished, but deliberate. Probably one of my issues with this browser is that it feels deliberately less capable than Safari does in some ways. Good thing it’s free, because I probably wouldn’t have bought it. It leaves me wanting more to be sure, and I hope future revisions address some of the screen render/partner app issues. The next thing I wanted to try, but didn’t get around to it was to try out Google Docs and see how it works.

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