Here’s something you’re not likely to see in the iTunes App Store: the Opera Mini 5 browser. Opera demonstrated the software on the iPhone at Mobile World Congress, but odds are slim to none that Apple (s aapl) will allow the application in its store. Google’s Android Market (s goog), however, is a different story — case in point: Opera Mini 5 is available today for Android devices. The beta application is free to download, which I did just this morning on my Google Nexus One.
My initial thoughts: It’s a solid beta effort and if you’re a fan of the Opera browser, I’d definitely grab it. All of the value-add features, like Speed Dial, tabbed browsing, and password management are in there. However, the real benefit I see is with the experiment I’m currently running. Last week I asked readers how much 3G data you’re using on a smartphone. My own answer was lower than I thought, mainly because of my use of Wi-Fi. Since that time, I haven’t used the Wi-Fi radio on my Android handset.
Thanks to the Opera Mini approach of compressing web data on the Opera servers and sending an optimized stream of bits, I see a noticeable speed benefit when browsing on a 3G signal. Not every web site opens faster, but most do with Opera Mini 5 as compared to the native Android browser when using 3G. The New York Times home page is a prime example — Opera Mini rendered it in around 7 seconds, while Android’s browser took 12 seconds.
So if the browser is faster in some cases, why wouldn’t you use it? I’m finding that the font rendering isn’t quite as good in Opera Mini, nor is the text reflow. Android’s browser also offers finer control over the zoom level from what I can see. The visual experience is more like one from a slightly older smartphone or a super new feature phone — not a cutting-edge Android device. Still, it’s good effort for a beta and you’ve got nothing to lose since the download is free. And if speed or 3G throughput is a concern, you just might turn to Opera Mini for your web consumption needs. I plan to leave the browser installed on my handset and get some more day-to-day usage. Besides, it’s always nice to have options, no?
Image courtesy of Opera
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