These days, Mozilla's Fennec and the Skyfire browser have been stealing all the thunder in the mobile browsing space. On Wednesday morning (that's Tuesday night for us in San Francisco), Opera yanked some of it back with the release of Opera Mini 5 beta for Java phones.
Introducing a graphically enriched layout topside and new features below decks, the new Opera Mini beta browser is snappier, more attractive, and more advanced than last year's predecessor, Opera Mini 4.2. Mini 5 beta brings over several features from Opera's desktop browser (Opera 10 for Windows | Mac.) Tabbed browsing is among them, as is a password manager. Each page opens with Speed Dial, a grid of nine thumbnail images and Opera Desktop mainstay, that you assign to favorite Web sites and can select among to quickly launch a Web page. The Speed Dial view replaces Opera Mini's previous landing page, a tangle of links capped with a search box and URL field. These thumbnail images make the landing page more meaningful, both in giving users a visual they can instantly recognize, and creating an easier target for users to accurately hit on touchscreen phones than a scrawny little link.
While the URL field and search bars haven't joined together in this beta as they have in other mobile browsers and in most desktop browsers out there, Opera has at least consolidated the two onto a single line. To address another long-overdue fix, Opera now lets you type directly into a text field. In previous versions, clicking a field opened up a blank page, where you were prompted to start typing before you could return to the main interface.
Opera Mini's navigation menu received another overhaul in Mini 5 beta. Opera moved it up to the top and made it completely icon-based. Press downward (on a D-pad for a keypad phone) to engage more items, like bookmarks, history, settings, and the Find in Page search tool, a new one for Opera Mini. Find in Page has previously been available in Opera Mini; it's nice to see it return.
The password manager that's new to Opera Mini works as expected, producing a dialog box the first time you log into a site asking if you'd like it to remember your credentials. You can turn this off in the Privacy portion of the Settings submenu.
Many additional features carry over from previous Opera Mini versions, including options to view the page as you would from the desktop versus a mobile view. There are also the usual shortcut keys and support for landscape mode on most phones (not on BlackBerrys, unfortunately, an ongoing omission). There are also additional options that pop up in response to long presses on the 'select' key or on the touchscreen, like for selecting and copying text, opening the image, and now, for opening content in a new tab.… Read more