Mobile software Monday: Opera Mobile 9.5

One of the primary functions I perform on my mobile devices is web browsing, but until now there have always been limitations with these browsers. The iPhone had the best current browser for strictly browsing, but didn't allow you to do much else (copy, paste, save, etc.) so it was limited for my use. We are seeing more powerful browsers than ever before though so things are getting interesting. Windows Mobile's default Pocket Internet Explorer/Internet Explorer Mobile is a rather outdated web browser and is quite limiting on Windows Mobile devices. There is a new version coming later in 2008 that will provide real Internet Explorer 6 functionality. However, until that time users who want a great browsing experience will have to look elsewhere. I was given a new HTC Advantage X7510 device that came with the Opera Mobile 9.5 browser preloaded in the ROM. Opera announced Opera Mobile 9.5 back in February and we have all been waiting anxiously for its release. It is still not available for download, but is coming out on some mobile devices. After using Opera Mobile 9.5 for several days on the HTC Advantage, I have to say it is the new standard for web browsing on a mobile device and the large VGA display on the Advantage helps make that experience even better.

One of the primary functions I perform on my mobile devices is web browsing, but until now there have always been limitations with these browsers. The iPhone had the best current browser for strictly browsing, but didn't allow you to do much else (copy, paste, save, etc.) so it was limited for my use. We are seeing more powerful browsers than ever before though so things are getting interesting. Windows Mobile's default Pocket Internet Explorer/Internet Explorer Mobile is a rather outdated web browser and is quite limiting on Windows Mobile devices. There is a new version coming later in 2008 that will provide real Internet Explorer 6 functionality. However, until that time users who want a great browsing experience will have to look elsewhere. I was given a new HTC Advantage X7510 device that came with the Opera Mobile 9.5 browser preloaded in the ROM. Opera announced Opera Mobile 9.5 back in February and we have all been waiting anxiously for its release. It is still not available for download, but is coming out on some mobile devices. After using Opera Mobile 9.5 for several days on the HTC Advantage, I have to say it is the new standard for web browsing on a mobile device and the large VGA display on the Advantage helps make that experience even better. Check out screenshots of Opera Mobile 9.5 in my image gallery and my video of it in action below. I ended up showing the original Advantage with Opera Mobile 9.5 since the auto-rotation on the new Advantage isn't working as well with the current test ROM on the device (a new final ROM is coming soon). The screenshot utility was unable to capture the touch and hold functions that I tried to show in the video.


 Image Gallery:Opera Mobile 9.5 works extremely well on the HTC Advantage X7510. 
Image Gallery: Opera Mobile 9.5 on the Advantage
 
Image Gallery: iPhone-optimized Google Reader
 

I first saw Opera Mobile 9.5 at Mobile World Congress in Spain earlier this year and took a short video of it in action on the Sony Ericsson P1 UIQ device. Up until now I haven't seen it running on a Windows Mobile devices. Opera Mobile version 8.65 was included on the HTC Advantage X7501 and it was a decent browser that let me access most of the sites I tried. However, Opera Mobile 9.5 takes that experience to the next level with quick context-sensitive zooming (called Opera Zoom), fluid finger scrolling and panning, multiple tabbed browsing, ability to save pages for offline viewing, fast page loading, Flash Lite 3 support, and more.

IMHO, Opera Mobile 9.5 is even better than the iPhone's Safari browser because I can perform functions like text selection, copy and paste, manage passwords, and save or send images from a web page. The only pages that found incompatible so far are Google Docs. I was able to view spreadsheets in Google Docs, but not word processing documents. I could not edit either though, but since I don't use Google Docs very much it isn't a concern for me. One major improvement is that I can now access the custom WordPress ZDNet blog management page. With Opera Mobile 9.5 and the HTC Advantage I can perform blogging on the go with a single ultra mobile device.

The new Google Reader version optimized for the Apple iPhone performs fantastically in Opera Mobile 9.5. You can visit this optimized page by going to www.google.com/reader/i.

When a page loads in full view you simply double-tap on the area you want to view in closer detail and Opera Mobile 9.5 dynamically zooms into the area at a level that fits the area selected onto your display and this will be at different levels depending on what you are trying to zoom into.

I love the way it quickly lets you select URLs you entered in the past so you don't have to type everything over and over. The password manager seems quite powerful and is saving me lots of time as well. Security is a priority in Opera Mobile 9.5 and you can check to make sure a page is secure by viewing the security lock icon in the address bar.

Opera Mobile 9.5 supports Widgets so you will be able to go to this Opera Widgets page to find Widgets for your mobile device. Unfortunately, it seems that these Widgets are not yet supported in Opera Mobile 9.5 for mobile devices since none of the ones I tried would load or run. The idea is interesting and I do look forward to using these small applications based on the Opera browser, but Opera needs to allow people to filter the Widgets by the type of system they run on (desktop, mobile, or TV/Wii).

The current version of Opera Mobile costs US$24 and I imagine this upgraded version will be similarly priced. I would easily pay this for a browser as powerful as this and look forward to the full release.