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Thursday, 28 October 2010

Opera Mini goes Symbian and speeds up

Opera Mini Symbian S60 mobile phone web browser
Opera Mini is an excellent web browser for Symbian, mainly because of its tabbed browsing and its proxy server that compresses data to reduce data traffic and increase speed.

The bad news: Opera Mini was coded in Java. This made things easier for the developers, because they could make a "one size fits all" installer that works on every phone that supports mobile Java. But this made the program start and run as slow as quicksand, and spit out an endless stream of security warnings and repeated requests for permission to go online.

The good news: we no longer have to suffer the limitations of mobile Java when we use Opera Mini, because now there is a real Symbian version of the program.

The new Opera Mini for Symbian loads much faster than the old Java application. Gone are the security warnings (Do you really want your web browser to go online? Duh!). Also gone are the repeated requests to define an access point because Opera forgot your choice of five seconds ago. Too bad that it can only remember a single access point instead of an access point group, a.k.a. as "destination" in Symbianspeak. But even so, one stored access point is better than nothing.

Scrolling through websites is a lot faster than it used to be, your cursor runs way smoother than back in the Java days, and your phone's predictive text input now works in Opera Mini too.

More good stuff: the hidden settings page of the old Java version also works in the new Symbian version of Opera Mini.

But there's still plenty of room for improvement. For example, the menu could use an overhaul and tabbed browsing could be made a lot easier.

Just about every Symbian program launches a standard cascading menu layout when you hit the left softkey. But Opera Mini has a horizontal menu bar near the top of your screen. This menu bar comes with shortcuts to the home screen, back/forward/reload buttons, an exit key, and a dropdown menu to go to your bookmarks and settings etc. This may work on a computer screen with a mouse, but it gets annoying real quick when you have to use the four-way navigation button on the keypad of a non-touchscreen phone.

Opera Mini 5 comes with tabbed browsing, but changing tabs requires a trip to the menu, because in normal page view the cursor gets stuck just below the tab bar. The cursor should go all the way up to the tab bar. If UC Browser can do it, Opera Mini can do it too. And don't tell me that I can toggle tabs in Opera Mini with a keypad combo; memorizing keyboard shortcuts has been obsolete since the death of WP5.1 and MS-DOS.

If you want to delete your cookies, clear your browsing history, erase stored passwords, or clean up other privacy liabilities you'll have to take a trip to the bowels of the settings menu. Message to Opera: the privacy options of a web browser should be clearly visibly and easy to get into. There's simply no excuse for burying the privacy tools in a hard-to-reach location. Opera Mini runs on mobile phones, remember? Those little pocketable things that are lost and stolen and abused wholesale.

One final bit of nitpicking: when you close Opera Mini it offends you with an annoying "are you sure?" dialog box. There's no way to switch this "feature" off. The red hangup key is no help either, because this only sends Opera Mini to the background. Opera, do you really think my fingers are so fat that I keep hitting the exit button by accident? The exit confirmation screen belongs in a museum, not in the latest version of Opera Mini!

Tailoring Opera Mini for Symbian is a good start. Let's hope that the other issues will be fixed in the second Symbian version.

Opera Mini
Opera Mini hidden settings

UPDATE: The day after I wrote this, story Dennis Bournique at WapReview posted this great review of the new Symbian Opera Mini:

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1 comment:

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Symbian Development