Opera Mini 4.2 for Android leaves beta

Released to the Android market in beta last November, Opera Mini today received the definitive update to "final version."

This version allows uploading and downloading of files through the browser, and allows pages to be saved for offline viewing. YouTube videos and the like (not all Flash 9+ video sites are supported) are redirected through the system's video player, double tapping the screen now activates zoom, trackball speed issues have been addressed, and text size can now be changed to "extra large" for easier navigation.

In terms of usability, Opera Mini is one of the few "must have" downloads in the Android Market. While neither Google's built-in browser nor Opera Mini 4.2 are perfect, the two complement each other well when used in different environments.

Opera's page loading speed makes it the ideal choice when connected to T-Mobile's 2G EDGE network. The default settings (low image detail, large text) help render pages quickly without requiring any customization on the user's end. Furthermore, some services which previously could only be fully accessed through dedicated Android Apps (such as Facebook and YouTube) can now be dealt with from within the browser, conserving time, battery life, and memory.

The inclusion of a cursor gives Opera an additional level of accuracy not found in the native Android browser. In that, when looking at a page at the default size, the user must either zoom in to click on a particularly small link with the touchscreen, or use the trackball to cycle through every one until he reaches the desired link. With Opera, the cursor can be used to scroll directly to a particular link. The improved trackball speed with the final release is a welcome upgrade.

The main area where Opera loses to the Android browser is in its "flickability." Even though Android's native browser doesn't load as quickly as Opera Mini, its interface is more like the iPhone's, and encourages rapid scrolling.

Also of issue is Opera Mini's treatment of blank text fields. For example, when a user clicks on a password field, it opens a full-screen text window that does not submit input through any single keystroke (such as enter) or screen click. The user must click "menu," which brings up a submit button, to complete text entry. While this will decrease the number of errant entries, it is an additional step which takes some getting used to.

Opera Mini 3.2 Final Version is available now in the Android Market under Applications > Communication.

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