I’ve been messing around with Opera Mini as much as I can today, and here’s what I make of it so far.
First thing: it’s fast. Most of the time, you get your complete web page downloaded and readable quicker than you would using Safari.
It also does a great job of downloading over crummy network connections. I spent most of the afternoon on a beach, at the bottom of a cliff that blocks out all but one bar of my phone network signal. 3G? Forget it. Even so, I was able to read about the new MacBook Pros, and even go browsing on apple.com to check out details, using Opera Mini.
That said, it doesn’t have the gorgeous rendering of WebKit. If you want your mobile browsing to look amazing, it’s certainly not going to be your first choice.
Opera Mini’s “overview” display isn’t as detailed as Safari’s. You can see in the screenshot above, that text blocks are rendered as simple lines. When you double-tap to zoom in, you see all the detail you need (and speedily, too).
I like the Speed Dial feature that gives you quick access to nine frequently-used sites. I like the fact that I can switch of images for even faster browsing. Some people accuse it of being ugly, but that’s subjective and I don’t agree. It looks fine, and if the UI design really annoys you, it’s possible to remove almost all of it by activating Fullscreen mode in the Settings pane.
I don’t like the zoom controls. It’s hard to zoom in on exactly what you want, and you have to tap the Back button to zoom out again. I don’t like the proxy-is-everything approach, either. But that’s the price you pay for speed. That, and the workmanlike page rendering.
There, that’s Opera Mini for you: workmanlike. It does the job, where “the job” means downloading a specified URL for you as rapidly as possible over shaky network connections. For that reason alone, it’s worth having on your iPhone. For everything else, you still have Safari.