by Bill Snyder

Opera Mini: Better Browsing on Your iPhone

Feb 08, 20124 mins
BrowsersCloud ComputingComputers and Peripherals

Tired of Safari? The Opera Mini browser is fast, easy to use, and elegant. There are small drawbacks, but it's definitely worth a try.

I’ve never been a fan of Safari on my iPhone. It’s not terrible, but I find it awkward. My all-purpose browser, Firefox, doesn’t run on the iPhone or iPad, and FireFox Home, which lets you import bookmarks, tabs and related stuff into Safari and keep them synched with your laptop, has never worked well for me. So, I tested the latest version of the Opera Mini browser on my iPhone (version 6.5.2, released in last month), and I like it.

First of all, it’s fast. But more important to me, is the attractive and very usable interface. When you launch Opera Mini 6.5 and click the arrow next to the big “O” logo, you’ll see a series of buttons, including bookmarks, history, settings, search in page, a start page and a few more. Click on the “O” once more, and those buttons go away. Naturally you have address and search bars, along with the usual front, back and reload icons. All of those controls are out of the way until you call them up to use; then they go away.


There are two things in the interface I especially like. One is the speed dial. When you load it, you’ll see a thumbnail layout of up to nine pages. Tap on one and there you go. You can add and delete pages to it very easily. Seeing what pages you have open is done differently than the normal browsing experience on the iPhone. Rather than flicking through them, there is an icon on the bottom of the page. Touch it and you’ll see small, clickable thumbnails of each open page. Cool.

Opera Mini 6.5 has some sharing options for sending sites and stories to other users. Just touch the Share button under the Opera Menu to post a link to Twitter, Facebook, the My Opera community or send a link via email. Save Pages lets you save a specific page to read or share later without cluttering up your bookmarks. When you’re done, click Manage and delete it.

There’s a full-screen mode that keeps the address bar and such out of the way, and a text-wrapping feature that avoids having to scroll sideways on a big page.

Some Drawbacks

Opera Mini is cool, but there are a few disadvantages, one that’s Apple’s doing, and one that isn’t.

Apple, in its wisdom (or lack thereof, some might argue), keeps a very tight control over the iPhone as a platform, which means the only default browser is Safari. That means if someone sends you a link in an email and you click it, Safari will come up. And unless I missed it, there’s no easy way to drop a link from Opera onto the home screen of your iPhone, the way you can with Safari. Not a huge deal, but kind of annoying.

More serious, though, is the issue of bookmarks. The only way to import bookmarks, and you probably have zillions, is to use the Opera Link, essentially a free, cloud-based service, which synchs bookmarks among your various devices. That sounds great, but there’s a catch. Opera Link only synchs bookmarks between versions of Opera on each device.

Since most of us do not use Opera as our desktop browser that means you’ve got to download Opera on your main device, import your bookmarks from Firefox, Chrome or IE and then set up Opera Link, and perform a synch over Wi-Fi.  Phew. Kind of a pain.

If I did the same kind of browsing on my iPhone as I do on my laptop, that would be a fatal flaw since I’m not about to make Opera my default laptop browser. But I don’t. Having my nine favorite sites in the speed dial suffices for much of what I do. If I need them, most of my bookmarks are now in Opera Mini (though I won’t be updating them) and going to random, unbookmarked sites is no harder with Opera than it is with Safari.

All in all, I’m going to use Opera Mini instead of Safari; at least for now. I’ll see if the drawbacks outweigh the good stuff over the long haul. My recommendation: Give it a shot.