Right now I'm Web surfing with a browser that's sleek and fast. It has Speed Dial thumbnails to quickly load a favorite Web page and preview thumbnails to help rotate through open Web pages by sight. The app I'm wielding sounds a lot like Opera 10, Opera's desktop browser (Mac | Windows), or even the recently released Opera Mini 5 beta for Java phones. But it's not.
I'm navigating the Internet from a 4.6x2.2-inch screen belonging to a Nokia N97 smartphone using a prerelease version of Opera Mobile 10 beta for Symbian Series 60 phones. Opera Mobile 10 beta is available as of Tuesday morning, Central European Time.
What's new? The tabbed browsing treatment and speed-dial thumbnails you see when you load the browser anew or launch a new page are the spotlight-grabbing features. The entire interface, in fact, gets a fresh coat of paint using the same brush that drew in Opera Mini 5 beta. The visual encore works. In looks alone, the inviting Opera Mobile 10 beta bowls over Opera Mobile 9.7 beta's design.
While the speed-dial thumbnails and multiple browser tabs were far more impressive in the comparatively resource-light Opera Mini 5 beta, a proxy browser, the design continuity we see in Opera Mobile 10 beta, a standalone Web browser, is a welcome refresh that also joins the two cell phone apps in a unified design philosophy.
Opera's 4MB version 10 beta browser retains many of the features from prior releases, like the password manager, and the abilities to zoom in and out, copy text, save images, download files, and open links in a new tab. Opera says it has improved the password manager in this 10 beta release, including better handling for multiple URLS for a single site, and easier management for deleting passwords.
From Opera Mobile 9.7 beta, the version 10 beta has carried over Opera Turbo, Opera's compression engine that uses Opera's servers to punch up performance (and deliver less detailed images) when the Internet connection is slow.
In addition, Opera claims that Opera Mobile 10 beta is twice as fast as its Symbian predecessor when it comes to downloads and zooming and panning.
As a beta build, Opera Mobile 10 beta does have several bugs to work out. First, Opera Link, the bookmarks-syncing service available in Opera 10 desktop browser and in the stable builds of Opera Mobile and Opera Mini, is absent from this build (it's also missing from Opera Mini 5 beta.) Opera Link will return by the time Opera Mobile 10 leaves beta.
Other known issues include the virtual keyboard popping up even when you're using the physical keyboard, as it did in our tests on the Nokia N97. The beta browser is also known to freeze at times, and has only partial support for the IMEs (Input Method Editors) that make typing Asian languages like Chinese, Japanese, and Korean work. As a result, this beta build won't function on handsets with Asian language packs and won't render Asian fonts in this version, says Opera, but the input incompatibility should be fixed in the next release.
Opera Mobile 10 beta is available now for Symbian users on Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson smartphones running Symbian Series 60, 3rd and 5th editions. Try it by pointing the mobile browser to http://m.opera.com/mobile.