Opera Mobile 10.1 beta for Android is a great browser, and is a welcome addition to the Android platform.
Opera Mobile, one of the best browsers for smartphones yet, has just reached another platform, Android. While currently in beta, the browser exhibits remarkable stability, and brings all of the great features that most people have come to associate with the Opera browser.
As we mentioned before, Opera includes all the features that you have come to like in its browsers. It supports Opera Link, that allows you to synchronize your bookmarks, Speed Dial entries, and a few other settings to your Opera Link account. Since sync is available in all Opera versions, this can be used to keep your desktop / laptop copy of Opera Link in sync with your desktop. While Firefox and Chrome too have syncing features now, Opera had them significantly earlier than either. Additionally, while Firefox allows one to sync their data between the desktop and mobile versions of Firefox, Google hasn't released any such means to sync between Chrome and the Android browser.
Another feature of Opera which finds extensive use here in India, Opera Turbo, is also included in the version. With Opera Turbo, page loads are snappy even on mobile, as pages are compressed and images resized at Opera's servers before being sent to your mobile. Not only it is faster, but also cheaper to access the net with Opera. At least one other browser, SkyFire includes this functionality. While Opera Turbo on desktop can potentially hamper the quality of the webpages you visit, as it compresses images to the point that they become pixellated, on the mobile at least the compression artifacts are barely visible due to the small size of the screen. Even so it would be nice, for the sake of the desktop browser at lest if Opera would include some means to turn off re-compression of images.
Opera has not changes the looks of the browser much in the Android version. A Speed Dial screen with 9 entries in a 3x3 square greet you when you open the browser. These can be linked to your favourite websites, so that they are accessible with a single touch on the home screen. As we mentioned before, these will be synced to your Opera Link account, so you can access the same homescreen from all your devices.
Opera Mobile for Android has the familiar multi-tab interface, which displays tab thumbnails in a tray at the bottom. This tab-tray can be accessed by tapping a button on the toolbar at the bottom. The multi-tab experience is quite pleasant, and switching tabs is quite fast. However, when too many tabs are open — how many will depend on your screen size and orientation — the tabs gets squished together to the point that it is difficult to distinguish between them. To make it simpler to switch tabs there is one clever little way to browse your open tabs. You can slide your finger across the stacked list of tabs; doing so will move them slide them across each other one by one, letting you see them in full as you move from one end to another. This works quite well, however you need to be careful to stop on the right tab.
Other elements in the tool-bar at the bottom include, back and forward buttons and a tools menu which exposes yet more functionality of Opera Mobile. When you zoom into the page, the back button also becomes the zoom-out button, to take you back to the full-page view. From the tool menu you can access bookmarks, history, downloads, the Opera help, and Opera settings. You can also use this menu to search for text in the current page.
Opera allows you to configure whether to use features such as Opera Link and Opera Turbo in its settings list. By default Opera Turbo comes switched off, however you can turn it on to save bandwidth, you can also opt to turn off displaying images entirely, or turn on mobile view for more performance benefits. To make optimum use of your large screen, you can turn on Fullscreen mode, which will hide all UI elements when the page is in focus, that way the entire screen can be dedicated to the content, and the UI elements can be accessed by clicking on the menu button on your device.
The settings menu also allows you to control the text zoom, text wrapping, and privacy settings. Through the privacy menu you can turn on or off cookies, and the password manager feature of Opera. You can also clear any sensitive data such as cookies, cache, saved passwords etc.
The text wrapping feature needs a special mention as it is incredibly useful. When you load any page, Opera presents it in its full glory, as it would look on a PC browser. However this is obviously not the best way to read the content on page, especially if the site is not designed for mobiles. So when you tap on a block of text in Opera, it zooms in onto the text, and reflows it so that it no more than the width of the screen. This eliminates any need to to scroll horizontally. As with mobile browsers there days, Opera Mobile support pinching to zoom, however it seems to be the only gesture supported. It will however need support from your mobile.
Opera Mobile 10.1 beta for Android is a great browser, and is a welcome addition to the Android platform. If you have a Android handset which has Android 1.6 or newer, it is a must add to your smartphone, and can be acquired from the Android Market. Opera has labelled this version as beta, however we found it quite reliable as a browser, and while there may be something missing to justify the beta tag, overall the browser seems quite ready for daily use.