Opera Mini 6 released for the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Opera Mini 6 for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch was released Monday, catching up to other platforms (such as Android and BlackBerry) that have had the updated Web browser since March.
But while the iOS version of Opera Mini 6 is a couple months behind its counterparts in reaching the public, the delay was for good reason, said Phillip Gronvold, a product manager at Opera.
The Oslo company's eponymous browser is the most popular mobile browser in the world, with a leading 21.9% share of the mobile market last month, according to research firm StatCounter.
And of Opera's share of the mobile market, which consists of about 105 million monthly users, iOS devices are the most popular, Gronvold said.
"Every platform is important to us, but the iPhone is hugely important to Opera, especially in the U.S.," he said. "But Safari is rock solid, iOS is rock solid and we have no problem saying that. And so, from Opera Mini 5 to Opera Mini 6, we've made a big shift in what we're trying to do."
"We're not trying to get people to choose Opera Mini over Safari, we want people to use it in addition to Safari, as a complimentary browser."
That applies particularly when Internet connectivity over 3G or Edge networks (which the first iPhone ran on) is slow or users are on a crowded Wi-Fi network, such as in an airport, Gronvold said.
"The iOS platform does not handle well connecting on a crowded Wi-Fi network," he said. "Most browsers don't. But with Opera Mini 6, that is our strong suit. That is where we excel. So, in the case where you don't get that quick page load on Safari as you might want, we can load pages for you faster than Safari can."
The way Opera Mini 6 pulls off its quick-loading pages is to call up compressed versions of websites that are stored and updated routinely in the cloud -- in server banks operated by Opera, Gronvold said.
"The compressed files that make up the Web page, we send that file to your phone, and it allows you to get that Web page much quicker," he said.
In many cases, because of Opera's compression technology, Opera Mini 6 can serve up a Web page using about 20% of the data size it would normally take for a page to load, Gronvold said.
"So when you're on a roaming network and you need the Internet but you want to keep down high roaming data costs, you could use about 80% less data and that means you could save a bit of money using Opera too," he said. "For Opera Mini, speed is No 1, and No. 2 is data, and we've gained users by focusing on these two things."
Tabbed browsing is a useful feature in Opera Mini 6, as is a new share button that allows users to share a webpage on Twitter, Facebook and Opera's own My Opera.
The touch-based navigation on Opera Mini 6 has been changed from Opera Mini 5 to match that of Apple's Safari, which should mean the updated browser app should be easier to use as well, Gronvold said.
"Opera Mini 5, sometimes it wouldn't react how people expected because they were used to Safari and it didn't feel like the same experience," he said. "We invested heavily to make the user experience the same, when you load a page, or pinch and zoom or interact with a page on Opera Mini 6, it's the same way you'd do it with Safari."
The user interface changes added extra development time for Opera, which put the iOS version of the browser app behind releases for other mobile operating systems, Gronvold said.
"We delayed ourselves on the iOS platform because we wanted to make sure we really were up to par on every iOS device that is out there," he said. "It's been over one year since we released the last version, and it's very rare that we spend that much time between versions. But we had to make sure Opera Mini 6 performed right, felt right, on every iOS device, going back to the original iPhone and the first iPod Touch, and that just simply took time. But we think we've got it right."
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Images: Top, a screen shot of Opera Mini 6 on an iPad 2 and, bottom, a screen shot of Opera Mini 6 on an original iPhone. Credit: Opera, Apple