Opera launched version 7 of its Opera Mini browser for Android on Tuesday, offering users a data savings of up to 90 percent. The company compresses web data and images before delivering the content to a smartphone, which greatly reduces the amount of mobile broadband data used. Mobile browsers that save on data sound good, but if the experience is poor, consumers won’t likely use them. That’s not the case for Opera Mini 7, which I’ve found to be a solid way to surf the mobile web.
Helping to deliver a good experience is support for hardware acceleration in Opera Mini 7 for Android. I’ve found this version to be much faster when rendering pages, zooming and scrolling. In fact, many pages I’ve browsed on Opera Mini 7 open faster — the New York Times is a great example — and allow for quicker navigation than on the native Android browser. That’s impressive as Opera Mini initially launched in 2006; a time one could effectively call the pre-touchscreen smartphone age.
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Opera Mini complements the more robust Opera Mobile client, but the two share a common user interface. That means Opera Mini has most of the same UI features: Speed Dial buttons for favorite sites, tabbed browsing support, pinch-to-zoom, offline reading, and kinetic scrolling. Missing is support for Adobe Flash, so if you need that, don’t ditch your native browser entirely.
Overall, my favorite browser on Android is actually a beta product: Chrome for Android. I highly recommend it, but it’s a different class of browser since everything is processed and rendered on the phone, not by a server in the cloud. But Chrome is only available for Android 4.0 devices, and most Android phones don’t yet, or won’t run, Android 4.0. And it doesn’t save you anything on data usage like Opera Mini 7 does, which is Opera’s big selling point of the browser.
Sure, if you don’t want to have your web browsing activities go through Opera’s servers, this isn’t the product for you. But if you want to cut down on your mobile broadband data use, you can’t go wrong with Opera Mini 7, found in Google Play. Even if you use it for casual browsing to reduce some of your data needs, there’s a benefit. Of course, Opera wouldn’t mind that strategy at all; that’s why it also offers the full-fledged Opera Mobile product and the Opera Link service to sync bookmarks between them.