Review: Opera Mini for iPhone

Opera Mini 5 has been approved by Apple and is now LIVE in the Canadian App Store. It went live last night and I immediately downloaded Opera to see just how the app fared. This mini (no pun intended) review will offer my initial impressions of Opera Mini for the iPhone.

Opera Mini for the iPhone – Looks Really Nice Until…

Downloading Opera Mini was a snap. Launching the app took no time at all. Using the app and navigating was a whole different story. Speed is where Opera Mini excels. Here are results from my casual speed test over 3G:

CNN.com – 23 seconds on Mobile Safari
CNN.com – 14 seconds on Opera Mini

Opera Mini is very fast, in part because pages are rendered server side by Opera. Some people have mentioned the security and privacy issues of this, but if you’re just casually surfing it doesn’t really matter. I love that you can surf with multiple tabs and they all load in the background. Mobile Safari can’t do that.

While Opera Mini is fast, its rendering of web pages looked ghastly. Web pages did not load properly (mobile versions), and surfing to websites reminded me of using my brother’s Blackberry browser–it was absolutely dreadful. Opera Mini has a hard time deciding between full versions of sites and mobile versions.

I wasn’t a fan of pages appearing with tiny lines, which required me to zoom in to view headlines, which wasn’t entirely accurate at times. The scrolling while zoomed in does not compare to Mobile Safari.

John Gruber sums it up nicely:

The iPhone uses a heuristic when you flick to scroll, such that if your finger is mostly moving up or down (or left or right) it locks you into that dimension when scrolling a view — such as a zoomed-in web page — that could be scrolled in any dimension. The effect is that when you’re zoomed in on a column of text in MobileSafari and flick “up” to scroll down, the view moves straight down, even if your flick gesture was a few degrees off. On Opera Mini, however, scrolling a zoomed-in view moves in exactly the direction of your flick gesture. The result is that scrolling an Opera Mini page feels like sliding a sheet of ice on an oil slick. Unfortunately for Opera and everyone else, Apple has been awarded a patent for this scrolling heuristic — and it’s one of the patents they’re suing HTC for violating. So it’s possible that Opera’s engineers are perfectly aware of how unpleasant scrolling is in Opera Mini, but they’re forbidden from doing anything about it.

Moreover, websites did not load properly on Opera Mini, like this blog and others. Fonts were off and pages didn’t align properly. Acid3 tests resulted in a score of 97/100 for Opera Mini and 100/100 for Mobile Safari. Opera Mini just didn’t feel right. The experience wasn’t great at all and it actually made me want to delete it right away in pure frustration.

It’s nice that Opera Mini was approved, but I’m not switching away from Safari just yet. For people with EDGE connections, Opera Mini will be a god send for you. As for everybody else, I’d stick with Mobile Safari in the meantime. Let’s hope future updates will improve on this release.

How do you like Opera Mini?

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter, and @iPhoneinCanada, and on Google+.

  • CMfly

    Mine keeps crashing on the BBC or CNN websites.. I have a regular iPhone 3Gs, not jailbroken or anything.. Was using it over wifi. OS 3.1.2

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    Yeah, the app definitely needs some work. Still buggy and web pages look
    pretty gross.

  • abbas400

    I downloaded the app before being posted last night as every body was exited and waiting, and really deleted after couple of tries, I believe Safari is the king so far, and I guess that is why apple approved the app so we appreciate the safari mote than before.

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    Yup, I was thinking the same thing. After using Opera, you really appreciate
    how powerful Mobile Safari is. This was like a really bad day for Opera.
    They hyped this monster up big time, only to have it fall flat on its face.

  • lello91

    Now it's time for Mozilla Firefox creating an app for the iPhone !!!

    My impressions: Way faster than Safari, didn't had any issue on my 3G. But like Gary wrote, sometimes it doesn't send me to the mobile version of the website. For a first release, it's great tho.

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    Haha…we all wish for Firefox but that's just a dream! ;)

    Definitely refreshing to see an alternative to Mobile Safari, even if it did
    trip a little bit out of the gate.

  • Lee

    It's really crappy. I tried a few sites, I don't see how its faster at all half the time you're sitting there waiting, then you have to zoom in to see anything. It's fast when you're zoomed in, but certain sites don't even work. Clicking drop down menus on sites did nothing when they work fine on Safari. This feels like taking a step back and going back to my crapberry.

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    It definitely reminded me of surfing the net on a blackberry. Just pure torture!

    Gary

    Sent from my iPad

  • ML

    like I said in a comment to a previous post, it's crap and I left as a “backup browser” just because it's free.

    there is NO excuse for Opera. they screwed up big time. heck, how could they even release this? they surely have testers. the way to beat the best is to COPY the best and then to improve upon. if you can't deliver the _same_ experience as Safari, you should not even bother releasing anything else.

  • http://twitter.com/lippo Mike LaPlante

    All good and valid points Gary. Like you say, let's hope they can improve upon this first iteration. However, the scrolling thing is hard to get past….especially after using an iPad for the past week and a half. As far as third-party browsers go, iCab is the one to beat so far.

  • Rich

    I used it extensively yesterday and Opera has some growing pains on the iPhone as some sites were fast to get to, but to go backwards in history was slow sometimes, but overall I like the tabbed browsing feature and most common websites you go to as favourite bookmarks. As a first version its not bad and certainly is a lot faster on some sites compared to safari. Not seeing a website sometimes is way worse ie. safari than having it not formatted correctly, which some website safari doesn't render correctly either.

    Safari on the iPhone doesn't rock as some people have suggested, its nowhere close to it desktop version and Opera having favourites bookmarks and tabs is a major step in the right direction for browsing.

  • prestingmtrs

    “Web pages did not load properly (mobile versions), and surfing to websites reminded me of using my brother’s Blackberry browser–it was absolutely dreadful. Opera Mini has a hard time deciding between full versions of sites and mobile versions.”

    This is completely missing the point.

    What the site sends to Opera is not up to Opera. If th site doesn't send the mobile site, it's because the site chooses not to. It has got nothing to do with Opera.

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    Ok, but either way the surfing experience was pretty abysmal. That's a fact!

    Gary

    Sent from my iPad

  • FlapWings

    I'd have to disagree there.

    It's faster, smoother, and just works better.

  • FlapWings

    Considering that it set an App Store download record, and people seem to have continued using it, it sounds like a huge success to me. In fact, on their latest mobile web report, Opera shows how the iPhone version had loads of active users.

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    Just because it set a download record doesn't reflect on the user experience. Check out Twitter streams on opera for iPhone and you'll see that people think it's crap.

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    Just because it set a download record doesn't reflect on the user experience. Check out Twitter streams on opera for iPhone and you'll see that people think it's crap.

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