Opera Mini: Mobile Phone Browser

First a little background:
I’m all for the usage and development of alternative web browsers. It’s not that Internet Explorer (IE) is bad per se, it’s just that security and features wise it’s simply unusable without an external shell like Maxthon. This is true even for the newest v7, although truth be told it’s a much better improvement than v6. Over the last few months, Firefox has gained worldwide recognition as being one of the most solid competitors / replacements to challenge IE’s continued domination of the browser market. The Opera desktop browser has always been on the forefront of innovation and has always been as standards-compliant as possible. Features like mouse gestures, tabbed browsing etc. were an integral part of the feature-set of Opera many many months before they were included in the more mainstream browsers.

Opera Mini Start Page

Carrying on this tradition, the Opera Mini browser is available for use on a wide variety of cell-phones. I currently use a Sony Ericsson K750i and the default WAP browser, which although usable is no match for Opera Mini. The latest version to roll off the coding line is OM v4.1.

Before I have a look at the features, a brief word on cell phone data plans. My service provider BPL Mobile (Mumbai) offers two GPRS plans:

  • The one that I use is cheaper and allows for only WAP access, allowing me to access only sites written or optimised for viewing by WAP browsers (the default browser on most mobile devices).
  • The other plan (Full GPRS access), which costs more, has no restrictions and allows all sort of data and socket connections to be made resulting in a much faster connection.

The beauty of Opera Mini is that it connects to its own servers over this low-speed WAP connection removes extra spaces and formatting and redisplays the full page so it fits your phone’s screen. No restrictions on WML only or WAP sites.

Too many features to list, but there’s support for SSL, so you can even perform secure transactions (although I wouldn’t recommend it if a PC option is available). Bookmarks and custom RSS feeds can be stored.

Navigation is a breeze especially if you have a joystick/four-way keypad. Page-wise scrolling is accomplished by moving the joystick left (Page Up) or right (Page Down). There’s support for cookies too, so if a site allows you to retain a login, you’ll be able to bypass entering your login credentials each time you visit.

Keyboard shortcuts take the chore out of having to navigate thru the menus. There are shortcuts for jumping to bookmarked sites (* + number) and for performing common tasks like reloading a page, moving to the top/bottom, viewing the history etc. (# + number). If you forget a particular number, just wait a second or two and a helpful reference screen will pop up.

OM Shortcut Screengrab

Opera Mini also has a neat photo blogging feature which allows a person to take a picture from the phone camera and upload it to the Opera Mini Photo Blog. You’ll need to register to set up an account first.

Saving content off a page is also considerably easy with OM’s ability to download files and images from links shown on the page. One can also zoom in to certain areas of an image for a closer look.

VERDICT: It works extremely well, is hugely useful and will make you forget your other browser. Get it. Quickly.

 

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