Quick thoughts on Opera Mini for iPhone

I was very keen to see how Opera Mini would work on the iPhone. I kept checking the App Store a couple of times every hour, and soon enough it was there. I tried to do most of my daily commute browsing (which usually lasts the better part of an hour) on Opera Mini and what follows are my first impressions.

Let’s start with the good:

  1. It’s definitely fast alright. Loads pages noticeably faster than Safari. However, as cameronmoll points out, the text is illegible (much more than in Safari), which makes knowing where to go difficult. Having said that, that didn’t impact my browsing much. Before moving on to the next item, I really should dwell on this point for awhile longer. Even when I was stuck with plain old GPRS, Opera Mini made browsing bearable. And that’s saying something. Those are the times I just give up on Safari.
  2. Single tap to zoom in. I was rather pleased to discover this. Makes moving around the page much easier and faster than double tap.
  3. Find in page. This is something mobile Safari should have had. I shouldn’t have to pay 99 cents for it.
  4. Full Screen. Gives a lot more space for web pages, and makes browsing on an already small screen much nicer. And really, one of the first things you should do is get rid of that red bar on top.
  5. Speed dial is useful.

And onto the not-so-good:

  1. Less functional mobile sites rather than iPhone optimized versions. This may not be Opera’s fault, but it does make me want to use the app less.
  2. Inconsistent UI. This could be a separate post in itself, so bear with me here. While the main browser is pretty decent (especially in fullscreen mode), the rest of the UI just comes off as an eyesore to me.

    I find that every other part of the browser is adamant on breaking standard iPhone UI conventions for no apparent reason. Notice the differences?

    • The back/previous screen button. In most iPhone apps, you find it in the top left. And this button usually also has the location of the previous screen you were in, to allow for easy navigation of hierarchies. Opera Mini completely forgoes this for no reason, and just keeps a generic ‘Back’ button, which gives no indication of anything.
    • Enable/Disable. The standard iPhone button just looks nicer.
    • Drilling down for additional options. Again, just stick familiar visuals.
    • And while we’re here, some logical grouping of these settings would be nice, thank you very much.

    It may look like I’m just nitpicking here (“how long does one spend in app settings anyway?!”). But like any other person, I like something that’s well designed. Ask anyone who loves Tweetie, and the UI will probably feature in their answer. This just looks lazy. “We’re already fast, why do anything else?”

  3. Some rendering issues. 3 column layouts appear as a single column. 
  4. Pinch to zoom feels very un-iPhone like. It’s blocky and at other times too sensitive. Opera Mini seems to be all too eager to find and snap to some grid, any grid when you pinch, rather than allowing a gradual zoom.