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Opera Mini browser gets fine-tuned for speed and looks

The browser's update adds a refined menu, a private-browsing mode, and a scalable interface that allows for support on tablets and smartphones.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Opera Mini has an upgraded interface that works on bigger smartphones and tablets. Opera Software

The lightweight, data-friendly Opera Mini Android browser has received a major overhaul that Opera hopes will help it attract many more users over the next several years.

The new Opera Mini supports Android 2.3 and above, compared to Android 4.0 and above for the full Opera browser.

Opera Mini comes with a new user interface designed to help users get around the software and on to specific Web pages more easily. In addition, Opera Mini has an "overhauled" Speed Dial feature for managing bookmarks and includes customization options to make it easier to use on different devices. Perhaps most importantly, Opera Mini now comes with a scalable interface that will automatically adapt to a tablet or large-screen smartphone and ensure that the application and Web pages look right on those devices.

Opera Mini, which runs on Android, is the software company's answer to low-powered smartphones and tablets in areas where data is precious (and potentially expensive). Opera Mini is specifically designed for emerging markets around the world. A core feature in Opera Mini is data compression. The browser compresses a Web page to as little as 10 percent of its original size to make it load more quickly and use up less of a person's limited data allocation. That is a vastly important feature in emerging markets where networks are still hard to come by, speeds are slow, and people have a finite amount of cash to actually dedicate to their cell phone bills each month.

Opera Mini owns a small slice of the mobile browser market, according to research firm NetMarketShare. At the end of March, Opera Mini 7.5 owned 2.2 percent of the worldwide mobile browser market. Its other versions, including Opera Mini 7.6 and Opera Mini 4.2, combine for about 3 percent of the market. Apple's Safari browser is by far the leading mobile option with 22 percent share. The browser built in to Android 4.0 is in second place with 14.3 percent share, according to NetMarketShare.

Opera said in a statement on Tuesday that Opera Mini is the most popular app it offers, beating out the standard Opera for Android browser, which comes with a full browsing experience for people in developed countries that don't have the same data concerns as those in emerging markets.

Looking ahead, Opera believes the good times will keep coming. The company's CEO Lars Boilesen said that Opera currently has 130 million users on Android across all of its browsers. The company believes that Opera Mini's targeting of emerging markets, which are set to explode in technology adoption in the coming years, will allow Opera's footprint on Android to expand to 275 million users by 2017.

Opera Mini is available now for free in the Google Play marketplace.

"Opera Mini is the browser that gets you from A to B on the web, no matter where you are, what your network is like or which device you use," says Christian Uribe, product manager for Opera Mini. "Today's updated features and design make Opera Mini a browser that's truly enjoyable to use, with a lighter and fresher browsing experience."