Hands On: Opera Mini 4.2 Beta For Android

It didn’t ta ke long fo r Android’s built-in WebKit browser (that performed well in our recent mobile browser Battlemodo) to see a little competion in the form of Opera Mini 4.2—the ubiquitous and lightweight software that’s installable in some form on just about every mobile platform that can run Java apps. A beta version was released for Android today, and we put it through a quick test.

operamini_androidg1_7 operamini_androidg1_6 operamini_androidg1_5

Opera Mini is notable for its practice of first loading your requested page on its own servers, which compress the pages and images before squirting it out to your phone over the network for quicker load times. And speed is definitely its forté on the G1—on T-Mobile’s 3G network in NYC, pages like the New York Times, ESPN and Gizmodo all loaded with only a second or two of “Processing” delay. Granted, what you see are horizontal lines instead of text and a few shaded boxes instead of images, but zooming in doesn’t cause any additional loading delay, except for some images. Zooming is pretty easy with a double tap or trackball click, and it works just like it does in other version of the browser. Hitting the G1’s “back” button zooms you back out, which is unintuitive at first but ends up making sense.

Javascript sites that have lots of dynamically loading bits, even those optimized for smartphone browsers like Google Reader or Gmail, will often revert back to their more dumbed down static HTML versions. It’s hard to find a page that loads completely bork-tastically though, as all of the pages we used in the Battlemodo loaded without any problems. No Flash, obviously, but YouTube’s non-mobile front page still loads as you would expect.As far as betas go, it’s not terrible, but text entry fields have a strange bug which results in them taking up the entire screen (as you can see in the gallery), and the only way to go back is often So while you probably wouldn’t want to switch to Opera for all of your browsing—it’s a great backup to have for a quick load of a newspaper site or anything else fairly simple, especially if your connection isn’t great.

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