Opera Mini for iPhone: good for extremes, not extremely good


So we've had a couple of days to play with Opera Mini for iPhone and it's clear why the new proxy browser is so divisive -- it's got a fantastic feature set, and is fast for people on slow EDGE connections and cheap for people on roaming data, but its UI is kludgy, it doesn't render HTML as well as Safari, and it has trouble with dynamic websites.

Whether you love it or hate it will likely depend on a couple of things:

  • If you roam a lot
  • If you're on 2.5G/EDGE a lot
  • If you love Opera's features like in-page search and speed dial
  • If you don't mind weird interface behavior like popping zoom and crazy scroll
  • If you're not a typography nut whose eyes bleed at poorly rendered Helvetica
  • If you're not an HTML aficionado who notices things like missing rounded corners and imprecise box-models
  • If you're not interested in the upcoming HTML5 video support and don't mind getting redirected to Flash videos which won't play either

The more of the above that applies to you, the more you'll want to keep Opera Mini handy. And hey, even if none of it applies to you, it's free so you can stick it on a back page (or in an iPhone OS 4 folder) for emergencies.

It's also a 1.0 release, so Opera will no doubt improve it going forward. Either that or complain to the EU and try and force a browser-ballot onto the iPhone... (We kid! They invented tabbed-browsing, we heart them!)

How's Opera Mini working for you?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Opera Mini for iPhone: good for extremes, not extremely good


I can't believe that Safari still doesn't have in-page search. So for now I'm keeping Opera just for that feature alone.

Did they beta test this thing? Surely it wasn't meant to be a final release. They have a long ways to go to make it function properly. Rendering pages correcty should be the first focus

I do like the quick zoom function better than Safari double tap or pinch to zoom. It seems to adjust to page width better, as well.

When I was on my bold 9000 I swore by the Opera Mini beta browser, it just made browsing on the bold much easier then the stock blackberry browser (mind you it is a pretty terrible browser).
The Safari browser is already pretty damn amazing so it would be pretty tough to top. I found the opera browser to be too fast, to sensitive to touch, jumping all over the page. Not being able to see in small text before I zoom in was a big annoyance for me. Maybe the settings can tone down the jumpyness, never the less, stickin with Safari.

opera mini for iphone sucks .. it really does and its simply a waste of time they should have never released it, they knew full well it would not be as good as safari whats the point. its chunky does not render javascript and html well for a company that has been making a browser for over 10 years they still should have put out a better product

Opera was a bit qwirky for me. Definitely keeping it, just a few pages back. Safari still my main squeeze.

Steve let this into the App Store, immediately after he saw it running, as he knows it'll make Safari look even better.

Split on it. It doesn't render as well as safari and the tap to zoom isn't all that precise. However it is fast. Just read a large multipage article on another site and the page loading was super quick. Going to keep it for a bit to see if they improve it.

You can also change the font size in Opera, unlike Safari. Bottom line, though, is that Opera isn't worse than Safari, just different. Having both available is a good thing.

I honestly believe that Opera never actually believed that this app would get approved, so just sort of threw something together. Almost to prove a point. I think a dead giveaway is the fact that one of the default pages in speed dial, BBC News (I guess the defaults may be different in other territories, I'm in the UK), doesn't actually render correctly. One would assume that you'd want pages that render correctly to be front and centre. It's not a great advertisement.
Having said that, I get stuck on GPRS for significant periods when I'm out in the sticks with work and it's blazing fast. When on 3G (on my 3GS at least), it's pretty close to Safari but Safari has much better rendering. Safari is also far nicer to use. The weird juddering you get when zooming is very odd and off putting, the text rendering doesn't seem optimised for mobile viewing (something which seems particularly shocking given their experience in that market) and it seems to have hugely inefficient use of screen real estate. I also find the "back button zooms out" behaviour very frustrating. It doesn't feel complete, nor comprehensively tested.
However, if my initial suspicions are correct, I'm expecting an absolutely stellar update over the next few months.

Tried it. Scrolling and zoom were pretty much broken. Also it was permanently stuck in Arabic. No, I'm not kidding.

Im on it now and i love it the only issie other than the bad zooming is that doesnt have auto correct for people who make alot of mistakes but it definitely is faster than safari.!

Agreed. Aside from the speed in poor coverage areas and in-page search, the whole app is half assed. I also think they just through something together to prove a point and need to update fast. The crazy zoom is annoying, pages don't render properly at all, and I find myself tapping a link/button several times before it responds. I'll keep it for the few times I drop down to Edge, but Safari is still my main browser. Was really looking forward to replacing it too. I'll keep my hopes up for future updates.

I don't know why everyone is so disgruntled with opera mini. Their thing is speed, and you have to admit, it is crazy fast compared to safari. I personally will put up with the clunky UI and other "issues" for a browser I am not constantly waiting on.
I just wish there was a way to make Opera the default web browser on the phone... perhaps a new jailbreak mod idea...
@Dionte, I had the same problem... you have to create a bookmark on your phone, then the Opera mini folder will show up on your browser.

"I find it to be too fast" .. that is the dumbest comment I've ever read on a blog... I guess RealPhood meant to say something else... "
If Opera works better for EDGE browsing .. there are a whole lot of Iphone 2G consumers who don't have 3G ... and AT & T's coverage is horrible.. so there are plenty of folks who could find it useful..

I must say that I was excited until I started using it. Then my excitement plummuted right back down to Earth. I use another alternative called Alt Browser from the AppStore. It's fast and suits my needs when I need a speed boost that mobile safari just does not have.
I am also testing out a browser called UC Browser that I picked up in Cydia. It a lot like Opera Mini and works a lot better as well. But it too suffers some bugs that need ironing out. However what interests me about UC Browser is it's ability to background itself the same exact way mobile safari does.

I like OM. I like it alot. It's fast for typical text based browsing and searching. It displays most of the pages I look for acceptably. Since I am often in AT&T low data rate spots, it makes browsing possible again. If Safari had a find in page feature, I might be more inclined to use Safari more often, but OM is now my go to browser. (I do SSL and banking on a computer, so that's not an issue, here.)

First of all, let me say how poor of a design this is. It's like web browsing on the first version of Windows mobile. It feels so old fashion and non iPhone like. It really doesn't feel like it's designed for iPhone. Saying that, it is very fast compared to Safari, and works like a charm for bypass school and corporate internet filters :).

Ya'll do know this is Opera Mini and was meant for low-signal Wifi users and for users on a EDGE/2G/Awful 3G connection. Do not take it seriously as a full-frontal web browser.
The name says it all! Opera Mini, obviously it's not Opera's "DSi Browser" for the Nintendo DSi. I do expect Opera to release a "DSi Browser" type browser for the iPhone OS in the future though.

Yeah, I've been on Edge. So, Safari takes maybe five to ten seconds longer to load a web page... big deal.
People have time to sit back, relax and read a few stories and post comments, but can't tolerate web pages loading slowly on Safari with Edge as if they've suddenly become Gordon Gekko in the middle of a crisis?

I like the fact that opera was approved, but, yeah. I've had a play with it. it loads webpages quickly when I'm on a crappy GPRS signal. but it is soooo lacking in soooo many ways.
Not least the rendering of small fonts which is just horrible.
It's been deleted from my phone, but i will keep it around for the next time I go abroad for data roaming. Although honestly, As I was trying to think of websites to add to its speed dial. I struggled to come up with five. All the other sites I visit either have optimised mobile pages, or dedicated apps!

One nice feature is full screen mode. I wish Safari had that option. It is nice, as others have mentioned, for large page loads while on Edge (Appleinsider.com, for example).
Does anyone know how to get TiPb to display in desktop mode, as opposed to mobile, in Opera mini?

I think it is very obvious that this version of Opera mini browser is not designed for a Touch-based phone. Yes, i get it, it is fast. But try going to the New York Times on the "speed dial" page. Can you actually read any headlines? What is the point of fast if i cannot even read it? May be the reason for its speediness is it does absolutely no rendering other than displaying some squiggly lines in place of the actual text. And why is copy/paste completely different from how you normally copy/paste on iPhone? It is like Opera made no effort at all in implementing how one normally does copy/paste on iPhone. There were a lot of complains when iPhone 2G was released without copy/paste, including yours truly, but when Apple finally implemented in iPhone OS 3.0, it was - it still is - the best copy/paste implementation on a Touch-based phone. It completely bewilders me as of why Opera chose to implement a copy/paste system that is completely foreign for iPhone users, and one that is impossible to use. If you don't know what i am talking about, try copying something and see if you can accurately copy what you intended to.
I have a theory though. Opera intentionally made its browser so crappy - so that Steve Jobs does not see it as a threat -

Oops, accidentally hit the submit button.
Continue from previous comment...
...- to get itself in the door. Once it has its foot in, it will be harder for Apple to reject future updates to Opera. Then, Opera can actually start making a usable product, unlike the crap version that is apparently designed for phones with navigation joystick/track ball.

It's nice when on edge but that's about it. To read anything you have to be zoomed in. Going to give them a couple months to "fix" it.

It would be nice if safari had the bookmark page the same as opera with 9 windows at the begining safari on macs and pc have it so why cant transfer it to iphone would make it look sweet with the new update

For mobile sites, which is all I use my phone for, is is much faster. I think it's a good step forward.

At certain interior, windowless parts of my office I'll either drop down to EDGE or pull really slow speed over 3G. Opera's proved useful in those cases. Otherwise sticking with Safari.

I love it other than no pinch to zoom. I run on EDGE about 80% of the time so it very handy. It still wont completely replace safari tho.

Find for Safari, this is an older one, but it works well. Copy this text and make a new bookmark with it. And Opera pretty much sucks.
javascript:void(s=prompt('Find text:',''));s='(' s ')';x=new RegExp(s,'gi');rn=Math.floor(Math.random()*100);rid='z' rn;b = document.body.innerHTML;b=b.replace(x,'$1');void(document.body.innerHTML=b);alert('Found ' document.getElementsByName(rid).length ' matches.');window.scrollTo(0,document.getElementsByName(rid)[0].offsetTop);

Opera on iphone is a true flop. They really should've taken their time and polished it off before releasing it because now they've lost a lot of potential users with this clunky version. It's not smooth at all like Safari, which is why it fails.