25 Jan 2006
Opera Mini (Operetta?)
Opera Software’s now giving away Opera Mini, a Java-based web browser compatible with a wide range of phones. Earlier on I installed the more basic MIDP 1 version on my ancient Nokia 7650, it downloaded quickly and works really well (just one minor rendering glitch and some menu awkwardness).
To take much of the bandwidth, memory and processing strain, pages & images are parsed and compressed through servers at Opera, which is fine as long as they keep supporting the software (my previous mobile browser, WebViewer, stopped working when the authors discontinued it and shut down the server it relied upon). Unless they’re being incredibly cautious about privacy, Opera will also be building up a useful set of data about mobile web browsing habits.
Images are shrunk down and the layout forced into a single column, as expected, but after a few minutes I realised something else was going on: it actually renders some aspects of CSS. I spotted background and text colours when viewing this site, and there may be other properties supported. By doing this, Opera Mini retains just that little bit more of the personality of a site.
So far it seems well worth a try, especially if you have an older phone and want a decent web browser for those occasional Google-resolvable pub arguments and memory lapses. It also shows, yet again, that ordinary web sites really can work OK on mobile devices as long as they’re simple, usable and accessible to start with.