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Summary:

Opera Mobile for Android gets speedy — or should I say SPDY — with version 12.1 of the browser, now available for free in the Google Play store. The popular mobile browser also gains some web fraud detection features and wider support for HTML 5 standards

Opera Mobile for Android

Android device owners looking for a zippy browsing experience have a few good reasons to download Opera Mobile from Google Play. The company released version 12 1 of its browser on Tuesday; it takes up less storage space and adds helpful anti-fraud detection and support for additional HTML 5 standards. A quick first test shows Opera Mobile to be at least as fast, if not faster, than Google’s own Chrome browser in some cases.

Opera appears to have different installation files in the Google Play store but you don’t have to pick the right one. According to the company, you’ll get the correct version:

Despite being tailor made for four different chipsets, ARM v5 and v7, MIPS and X86, the Opera Mobile 12.1 browser remains sleek and slender since you only get the version suited for the chipset in your Android mobile or tablet.

I doubt this saves much space, but having run out of room on my 16 GB Nexus 7 tablet — which doesn’t have any storage expansion capabilities — every byte can count. The new browser version also includes warnings for potentially suspicious sites or those used for illicit activity. And developers of web pages and apps can now take advantage of additional HTML 5 standard support. Opera specifically calls out support for SPDY — a protocol designed to reduce page load times — WebSockets, CSS Animations and HTML 5 drag and drop capabilities to name a few.

Along with the new features are the old ones that have always impressed me in Opera Mobile. Of particular note is the Opera Turbo feature to speed up the web experience on mobile devices while also reducing the amount of mobile broadband data use: Opera’s compression technology has long been a key differentiator in the mobile space.

While the compression tech has impressed me in the past, the pure speed of Opera is impressing me now. I took the new version for a quick spin on my Galaxy Note 2 and the experience feels as fast as Chrome, my default browser. I ran a SunSpider benchmark, which gives an idea of JavaScript performance in a browser, and found that Opera Mobile was even faster than Chrome. In the SunSpider test, where a lower number is better, Opera Mobile scored 1094.4 milliseconds while Chrome followed in 1192.1 milliseconds.

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  1. Do benchmarks really matter that much anymore? I tend to just try the browser out and if it feels faster, I stick with it. Firefox for Android never really gets too much praise from the community…yet it seems to perform best for most of my needs. Chrome (on the other hand) performs like crap on my phone (Nexus S, btw).

    1. Peter, I completely agree with your viewpoint: What “works” faster to an individual is far better than any benchmark, which only gives a rough idea of performance in a particular circumstance. I’ve learned from the past though: If I don’t include a benchmark, commenters invariably ask for one. ;)

    2. Every just talk about speed while comparing Browser, but I have my own criteria – “rendering of page”. I had used almost all the available browser on my android phone, I found one noticeable issues in almost all – the image. When loading the page, only text got adjusted as per my phone screen, but image files goes out of sync. Even I faced the same issue with Chrome. Firefox is the only browser I had tested which render the image file correctly, hence I made it my default.

      1. That is Opera’s main problem, it is affecting images quality but in other browsers images are shown without affecting it’s quality.

  2. MisterKnowItAll Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    Opera is the only browser I have found that properly re-flows text after a pinch-zoom to any level of zoom. Other browsers zoom text to fit the page after a double-tap, but further zooming results in no re-flow.

  3. David McCormack Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    Tech note: When you build an Android app that has portions written in C/C++, the NDK produces multiple CPU-specific flavours of the native library and packages all of these in the .apk archive. At install time, only the flavour of the the native library that is appropriate to the target device gets extracted from the .apk. This is presumably what they are getting at with the “sleek and slender” claim. I would think, however, that the space efficiency of native vs Dalvik (Android’s bytecode) is debatable. It would certainly be very dependent on the type of functionality being implemented in native.

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