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Opera's Coast browser arrives on iPhone

The Norwegian company expects more people will use the iPhone version of its new Web browser than the iPad version that arrived last year.

Opera Coast for iPhone autocompletes Web addresses, offers custom backgrounds, and relies on a gesture controls..
Opera Coast for iPhone autocompletes Web addresses, offers custom backgrounds, and relies on a gesture controls. Opera Software

After debuting on iPads in 2013, Opera Software's Coast browser is now available for iPhones as well.

The Norwegian company sees Coast as a fresh start, an browser designed to give those using Apple's iOS mobile operating system a cleaner user interface and features to help people with some time to kill when out and about. Now with the iPhone version, Opera said Coast is thumb-friendly, too.

"Getting an iPhone version is the first thing that people ask us," said Huib Kleinhout, Coast's creator. "I believe it will be used more on iPhone than on iPad because there are more iPhones."

That could help Opera, which derives revenue from search ads people see when the browser uses Google or other search engines to fulfill their search requests. Opera has been a leader in mobile browsing, but faces major competitive pressure in the mobile browser market from Apple's Safari and the browsers Google offers for its Android operating system.

Opera Coast icon
Opera Software

According to StatCounter's analytics software, Opera browsers account for 13 percent of mobile Web usage, with Google's Chrome just surpassing it at 14 percent. Safari for iPhone accounts for 22 percent, and Google's unbranded Android browser is at 26 percent right now.

Opera has remained a browser underdog since the 1990s but has made dramatic changes in recent years. First, its business increasingly is delivering mobile ads through its AdMarvel network, and second, it scrapped its own Presto browser engine in favor of the open-source Blink engine that powers Google's Chrome. Despite being the fifth-place PC browser and seeing major new mobile competition, the company has kept its business mostly healthy.

On iOS, things are more complicated because Apple doesn't allow third-party browser engines; on iOS, Coast and Chrome both combine an Apple-supplied version of the WebKit browser engine with their own user interfaces. (A browser engine turns all the HTML and CSS and JavaScript coding that makes up a Web page into something a person can see on a screen and interact with.)

Coast relies on gestures for much of its interface, which means only two buttons occlude the view of an open Web page, Opera said.

Coast for iPhone, like Opera Mini and Opera's other browsers, includes a version of the Speed Dial grid of icons to quickly get to frequently used websites. People also can set the wallpaper behind the grid, follow Opera's suggestions of interesting sites to visit, sync settings with Coast for iPad, and autocomplete Web addresses for faster navigation.