Last week at the Mobile World Congress, Opera made available a pre-release version of their next series of mobile browsers which they ave dubbed Opera Mini Next. Opera has been the dominant mobile browser globally, and especially so in Africa where its technologies make it deliver the web faster on GPRS and EDGE mobile internet running on feature phones. This new version deserves a second look here as it has new and interesting features that aren’t present on any of the previous versions for both feature phones and smartphones.
The feature phone version now has a new interface (pictured right) with two tabs for your Speed Dial and the other labelled “HOME”. HOME is where the noise is at now, showing recent updates from your Facebook and Twitter contacts as well as updates from websites you visit regularly right on the home screen.
You’ll also get breaking news, weather forecasts, sports, entertainment and more, according to Opera Software. You can specify which websites you want updated on, and it will suggest new ones to you that are related to what you normally browse. Pretty smart. Instead of having just old 9 Speed Dial entries, you can now put a virtually unlimited number of entries which is a good thing because the number of websites we check on frequently is increasing and *ahem* since Telecomms operators are continuously raiding our existing Speed Dial entries we can restore the original spark to our Speed Dial.
The Smartphone elite won’t have the HOME tab yet. Opera says they are working harder on a faster and smoother browsing experience for this league of devices and they probably assumed that those with smartphones have Facebook for Mobile installed. For Android (Opera Mobile 12), they worked on adding the latest wave in website technologies such as record-setting HTML5 scores thanks to their Ragnarök HTML5 parser. WebGL is also supported now, which is a technology used mostly by the newest of games we play in the browser but its performance depends on the oomph in your phone since it is hardware accelerated.
Web pages will also be able to detect and manipulate the camera, which is good for online video chatting and collaboration. The iPhone version hasn’t been said to support what has been done for the Android version as a release with the features is still on its way, but at least they get unlimited Speed Dial entries too.
Opera has a big footprint in Africa where feature phones still rule. They firmly aspire to be “The mobile web browser that turns any feature phone into a smarter device” and are well on their way to be it seems. Who knows, Facebook chat could be in-built into another tab soon.
Electronista, in an article about the feature-phone version of Next here, said “The browser may be significant only in a limited number of markets where smartphones are prohibitively expensive”. We’re not sure how far true that is, considering the bulk of internet access in out country for example is from the feature phones. If you want to download Opera Mini Next and ride early on the next wave of mobile goodness, do check out opera.com/next
The Opera Mini Next series is for those who like to stay ahead of the pack, and it will officially be available later this year. If you download it now (highly recommended) it will install with a White “O” to distinguish it from your current Opera, which it will not disrupt in any way. It may be a sore to manually set your Speed Dial entries and bookmarks once you get to fancy Next more than your current version, but Opera Link can help. Look for Opera Link in your browser settings, register an account and wait for it to finish synchronising then open Next, and in the Opera Link settings sign in with your account to have your bookmarks and Speed Dial just as they are in your other Opera.