Opera releases Webkit-based Android browser

Opera's new Webkit browser for Android has hit Google's Play store.

Browser maker Opera has released its first Android browser built on the WebKit rendering engine, less than a month after announcing it was ditching its own Presto engine. 

The new browser, available on Google Play in beta from Tuesday, will be sleeker than its predecessors, according to Opera, and includes a new user interface, Opera-curated content discovery, and a revamped Speed Dial feature containing icons to popular sites.

The Android browser includes Opera Mini’s data compression for poor network conditions is also integrated, a combined search and address bar, and tabbed as well as private browsing. Other features include saved history and the option to store web pages for reading without a network connection.

"There are countless hours that have gone into making this completely new, completely re-thought Opera for Android," said Opera Software EVP of product development Rikard Gillemyr in a statement.

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In February, Norway's Opera announced it would make the switch to WebKit , the rendering engine used in Chrome and Safari, which was viewed as an effort to improve performance that lagged its rivals and streamline development.

Opera is expected to release the final version of its Android browser in the second quarter and also may release its iOS browser in about a month, according to ZDNet's sister site, CNET.

It's been a busy year for Opera. Besides changing the core of its browser, amidst ongoing rumours it was gearing up to be acquired, the company has acquired SkyFire and and spun off its mobile advertising into a the new subsidiary, Opera Mediaworks . In addition, Opera co-founder Jon S von Tetzchner reportedly lowered his holdings in the company to just over five percent, a level that would no longer allow him block an acquisition deal.

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