New Opera Mobile Browser looks promising


New mobile Opera browser is among the first to add Flash Lite, Google Gears support

Even the most able of mobile browser often leave their users with significant woes.  According to early reviews those browsers — which include the likes of Mobile Safari, RIM’s browser, and Internet Explorer Mobile — have been served notice by Opera Mobile 9.7

Opera Mobile 9.5, Opera Software’s high-end mobile browser entry, showed a lot of potential, but still had a lot of rough edges. With the 9.7 version, Opera has added the polish mobile browsers desperately lack and has incorporated support for many users’ most asked for features.

Among the new features in 9.7 is the inclusion of Flash Lite, which should open up a whole new world of web pages to the mobile community.  Also included is Google Gears, which will offer access to Google applications like Gmail and Google Docs when offline.  Finally, the browser adds support for silky-smooth OpenGL ES hardware accelerated graphics.  This should help make the browser’s animations more fluid (this requires 3D hardware and drivers, available on many smart phones, including HTC models).

The new version also uses server-side compression to offer ultra-fast page load times.  In a speed test, the new browser loaded a website in 9 seconds that took Microsoft’s Internet Explorer mobile over 3 minutes.  While such tests obviously have the potential for bias and fall short of independent testing, it’s clear that Opera believes its browser to be much, much faster than many of its competitors.

It is worth noting that most of these features are available in the beta of Skyfire, a new independent browser entry for Windows Mobile smart phones.  However, Opera Mobile 9.7 one ups Skyfire as well, offering WXGA and VGA support.  Opera Mobile is also available on a couple of mobile OS’s besides Windows Mobile — it’s also supported on S60 and UIQ operating systems.

Sadly, neither entry is available for the popular iPhone, due to Apple’s restrictions on third-party browsers.  However, the good news is that these new entries place the onus on Apple and other smartphone makers to make more full-functioned browsers or risk losing business.

Opera Mobile 9.7 is currently being tested and will be released to the public in a few short months.

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