Opera's overhauled Android browser now in beta

The public now can start judging whether it was a good idea for the Norwegian browser company to scrap its own browser engine for the open-source WebKit.

Off-road Mode puts Opera into proxy-browser mode like Opera Mini uses, which means Opera's servers do the hard work of reading Web pages. They then send a boiled-down version to the browser so that slow networks aren't such a problem. Opera plans to integrate the Skyfire video-compression technology into the technology.
Off-road Mode puts Opera into proxy-browser mode like Opera Mini uses, which means Opera's servers do the hard work of reading Web pages. They then send a boiled-down version to the browser so that slow networks aren't such a problem. Opera plans to integrate the Skyfire video-compression technology into the technology. Stephen Shankland/CNET

The first results of Opera's WebKit brain transplant are now available for people to try: a beta version of Opera for Android.

The new version uses Android-native user-interface elements but preserves many Opera features such as Speed Dial. It gets some new features, too, such as Off-road Mode to enable a proxy-browsing technology designed for slow network connections and the Discovery tool for people who want to browse content tailored to their interests.

The Oslo, Norway-based company announced in February that it's scrapped its own Presto engine, except in its TV browser product line, in favor of the open-source WebKit engine used in Apple Safari, Google Chrome, and several other browsers. Opera CEO Lars Boilesen told CNET last week the final version of the overhauled Opera for Android should arrive in the second quarter , and maybe even the first.

In addition, Opera plans to release an iOS version of the new browser within about a month of that, and it's rebuilding its personal-computer versions as well.

The new browser also offers a per-tab private-browsing mode, a new interface for switching among tabs, and the ability to group multiple items into Speed Dial "folders." And you can save pages for offline reading later.

Speed Dial, a customizable array of bookmarks, has been a source of revenue because partners could pay to have their Web sites promoted there, as long as Opera deemed them worthy of the placement. The new Opera for Android browser includes Speed Dial links for YouTube, Google+, Gmail, Amazon, Wikipedia, news sites, and the Opera Mobile Store for downloading apps.

Boilesen said he's considering releasing the Presto browser engine as open-source software.

Via Android Police

 

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