Opera Mini: Your Best Bet for Mobile Browser Yet

The lowly Java app is the bane of the S60 user’s existence — I mean, what’s the point of having a modern, multitasking mobile operating system if some dinky little program is going to ignore your UI and suck up all your available memory while it runs?

Well, in the case of Opera Mini the hassle is entirely worth it.

I’ve been hearing about Opera Mini since my days with the CrackBerry — folks over at the HowardForums had recommended it as the web counterpart to RIM’s mobile-optimized email, offering up the ability to surf full-sized websites while saving precious kilobytes on Fido’s less-than-generous BlackBerry Connect plans. This same technology is also available for followers of the WinMo, Treo and just about any other mobile handset on the market — except the iPhone, that is… Haw-haw!

What makes this Opera sing (sorry) is the heavy-lifting going on backstage, otherwise known as server-side optimization. It goes something like this:

  1. You fire up Opera Mini on your mobile and send out a request for a web page.
  2. The page goes through Opera’s servers; on the way back to you the graphics get compressed (based on your own settings) and the stuff your mobile can’t read gets stripped out.
  3. You see a thumbnail of the original page and a cursor to zoom in on various parts of the page. It won’t impress your friends quite like pinching and spreading your fingers on an iPhone or iPod touch, but it works just the same if not better.

This is all fine and well, but what sold yours truly on Opera Mini was a demo I saw this past week on BBC World’s Click!, wherein the synchronizing of mobile bookmarks was accomplished by dragging an dropping tabs from an Opera desktop browseron a Mac, no less!

The interface is called “Speed Dial”. You can see for yourself what it looks like on a full-sized computer by clicking on the thumbnail to the right, and/or have a look at Opera’s own Flash demo.

The other half of the equation is Opera Link. Note that to get this all working you need beta 9.5 of the desktop browser, Opera Mini 4 and an Opera Link account, all of which are 100% free.

So here’s what Speed Dial looks like on my E61i:

Mobile Interface on Flickr

The “Bookmarks” link leads to my vast directory of mobile portals and whatnot that I’ve been collecting since my first smartphone. These nine shortcuts are more easily accessed via the pop-up menu seen below:

Speed Dial Mobile Interface on Flickr

You may notice that my Speed Dial links are all mobile-friendly web pages to begin with. Let’s just say I’m really stingy with data.

It took me an evening and the following morning to get everything up and running, and I’ve yet to try out the software on other platforms, but so far Opera Mini has proven itself worthy of a coveted spot on my Nokia’s standby screen:

Standby Screen on Flickr

You’ll notice that Nokia’s own web and WAP browsers are nowhere in sight! Kudos to you Opera Mini, for making the Wee World Web a better place…

By Andrew

Mobile phones, Linux and copyright reform. Those go together, right?


  1. AC:

    Good lord! You mean to say I could replace the annoying Mobile Browser on my LG Chocolate with a real browser that doesn’t require me to plow through pages of bookmarks to find Google or any links I actually use? And it syncs with with a Mac?

    I have to sit here for a few minutes. If I wasn’t in the middle of a cell-unfriendly building, I’d download it now….



    PS: I have to admit I haven’t tried to tweak Mobile Browser’s settings to see if I can make it easier to use, but I suspect that, given it seems to be intended to sell ringtones and downloads rather than browse the web, I’ll definitely have to add Opera even if it means I have to flip through a few menu screens to get to my downloaded apps….

  2. AC:

    I installed Opera’s low-memory version since it didn’t recognize my LG, but when I try to use it, I can’t get past the EULA page. I get an error every time I try to X the box and continue, so Opera doesn’t play nice with . Oh, well…. It was nice to dream of easy-to-modify bookmarks..


  3. Hmm, I’m not sure if its worth it…my Touch is about a week for this world (well, my use).

  4. Elias, maybe you could demo it for Ed’s sake — he’s also on the Bell network, and I’m wondering if maybe they’ve locked down the web access on their phones…?!

  5. Nope, I’ve installed it. Its running just fine on 1x right now. Everything is good to go if you want Opera on your phone, I don’t think Bell can tell what you are using (unless of course, your phone won’t let you install Opera, but that would be the phone not Bell).

  6. AC:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Bell had done something to restrict web access. The bookmark pages you’re forced to navigate in Mobile Browser have changed, so Google is not easy to find (had to run a search for it). I’m debating whether the $7/month is worth the hassle of dealing with the browser….


  7. Thanks, Elias. Ed, I’m a bit flummoxed here… If you watch the online Click! video you’ll clearly see they’re using a standard mobile.

    If it makes you feel any better as of yesterday Fido has their own “me too” $7/unlimited data plan, but you can’t used an unlocked handset with it. 🙄

  8. Daniel:

    I get a white screen with “an error has occurred.” This happens when I download and run the 3.1 low memory version. When I try either 3.1 high-memory or version 4 high memory, I get a 905 attribute Mismatch (content-type) error before the download completes, so I haven’t been able to download or run the program.

    My phone is an LG KG800, but it’s a Bell Canada phone, so it’s not a “stock” KG800. It’s a GSM phone modified to work as a CDMA (it’s different from the native CDMA model, the LG VX8500).

    Bell’s disabled a bunch of features, so I can’t transfer files via Bluetooth or the USB cable, and there’s no removeable memory chip. If I had any of those options, I’d try them, too, alas….

    Thanks in advance for any advice you have.



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