Opera Mini 5 solves some of Android's native browser problems

Following up on last week's beta release of Opera Mini 5 for Windows Mobile 5 and 6, Opera software today launched Opera Mini 5 for the Android platform.

Opera Mini 5 on AndroidWith Mini 5, Opera Software has managed to make a cross-platform browser that provides an almost uniform experience across all the operating systems it runs on. Today's release on Android feels almost identical to the version I tested last week.

However, with Android, we're taking a different look at Opera and its comparisons to other browsers. It's easy to say, "Oh, Opera is faster than IE Mobile, but not as comprehensive as Skyfire," when comparing browsers on Windows Phones. Everybody does that.

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Because there are four different versions of Google's mobile operating system in circulation right now, there are at least three different native Android browsers to compare Opera Mini 5 to. Android versions 1.5 and 1.6 have an older version (v. 4.0) of the Android browser, while Android 2.0 and up have a browser with a new UI and new features. Android 2.1 has the same browser as 2.0, but it is endowed with multitouch gestures.

We tested Opera Mini 5 against the two main Android browsers.

Opera Mini 5 on Android 1.5 & 1.6

For devices that run upon the "Cupcake" and "Donut" builds of Android, Opera Mini 5 provides a number of different experiences from the stock browser. First, Opera provides an actionable address bar which can just be clicked upon to enter URLs. In Android Browser 4, the user has to tap Menu > Go to bring up the address bar. Secondly, Zooming in and out with the Android browser is done with the preview tool and magnifying glass buttons, but Mini 5's is mostly pre-ordained. If you set it to "mobile view," pages are formatted to fit your screen so you don't have to do too much resizing. However, Mini 5 defaults with mobile view off and full screen mode off, so your pages are first going to load very quickly, but will require zooming (done by double-tapping the screen, a gesture that Android Browser version 4 actually lacks).

When considering Mini 5's interface alone, it's not a significant improvement over the stock browser. However there's much more to love about Opera than its UI, so we'll talk more about that later.

Next: Opera Mini 5 on Android 2.0+...

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