It's been a few days since Opera unwrapped its latest beta browser for mobile phones, and we've had some more time to get acquainted. Opera Mobile 10 beta (download), which runs on certain Symbian Series 60 smartphones, adds some improvements to its password manager and has made a few tweaks under the hood. However, its most significant alterations are in its visual design. Bottom line: We like it, and we like how similar it is to Opera Mini 5 beta, a recent overhaul of the free Opera browser for Java phones.
There are some downsides with the version 10 beta browser that have cropped up--these go beyond the known issues and bugs. Opera's smartphone browser continues to struggle with accurately rendering complex pages. When zooming in on CNET Download.com on the Nokia N97, we saw text and graphics overlap. While Web sites often redirect to a URL optimized for mobile phones, we'd still like to see graphically rich pages rendered more faithfully in Opera Mobile on those that don't have specialized versions.
Its responsiveness was also an issue on the Nokia N97 test phone, but we suspect this has more to do with the device than with Opera. CNET reviewers dinged the Nokia N97 for its choice of an inconsistently responsive resistive touch screen instead of the capacitive touch screen that's found on the iPhone.
Even if you don't have a compatible Nokia, Samsung, or Sony Ericsson phone to test Opera Mobile 10 beta with yourself, you can watch our First Look video to see the new browser beta's features--its new tabs interface shines.
Opera Mobile and Firefox Mobile
Interestingly, Opera and Mozilla have been nearly in step with their mobile browser developments lately. In mid-September, Opera Software introduced Opera Mini 5 beta, and a few weeks later, Mozilla released Fennec beta 4 for Maemo. ("Fennec" is the code-name for the mobile version of its Firefox browser for Nokia Internet Tablets.) The day before Opera Mobile 10 beta stepped onto the stage, Mozilla uploaded a YouTube video of Mozilla Vice President of mobile, Jay Sullivan, demoing Fennec on a Nokia Internet Tablet.
Fennec's tab management and navigation differ from Opera Mini and Opera Mobile's, though both Web browser makers are striving to free up screen real estate and manage tabs off-sides. Mozilla takes that literally, having you swipe left and right on touch-screen devices to access tools from virtual sidelines. Fennec also includes nascent support for extensions. Opera Mobile 10 will likely support Opera widgets when it reaches its full release, as did the previous Opera Mobile build. Users' adoption of one browser over the other could very well come down to a personal preference of Firefox extensions over Opera widgets, and vice versa.
In the meantime, although Opera didn't give us an arrival date for the Windows phone version of Opera Mobile 10 beta, we're hoping to see both it and the next version of Fennec beta for Windows phones before 2009 comes to a close. Then the real comparisons can begin.