I’ve wanted to like Opera Mini, I really have. I’m a longtime big fan of Opera’s Web browser for OS X, so it seemed a fairly logical leap that their iOS browser offering would appeal, too. It didn’t.
I didn’t like the user interface aesthetics or the way it worked, and it wasn’t especially speedy. Worst of all, Opera mini’s support of cut/copy/paste was even worse than the iOS norm, which is at best pretty mediocre. As one who does a lot of online research, text selection and transfer are a vital element of the Web browsing process for me, and even if everything else had been hunky dory, Opera Mini’s shortcomings in that department would’ve rendered it a non-starter for my usage.
So, when I heard that Opera Software had given Opera Mini’s interface and feature set their most comprehensive and substantial update to date with the release of Opera Mini 8, I was enthusiastically hopeful that the issues I’ve found plaguing earlier versions would be fixed.
Mostly, they have. Plus, some of the new features brought over from Opera for OS X (and unique to Opera mini among iOS browsers) are extremely cool, especially integration of not just one but two levels of data compression in order to enhance speed and minimize bandwidth demands when you’re on slow networks or the bandwidth usage meter is running. Opera Mini 8 also gets a new, native, flat design UI look for iOS 7, which I feel is a major improvement over Opera Mini’s old look. And if you don t like the default look of Opera Mini 8, you can pick another of the alternate themes available.
But unhappily, Opera Mini 8’s text selection and Cut/Copy/Paste are still below average, and in some respects more lame than ever. That’s disappointing in light of the newfound interface attractiveness and raw speed provided by data compression.
The culprit now appears to be Opera Mini 8’s new data compression, which otherwise is a very cool feature. Specifically, pages downloaded under full compression (designated “Opera Mini”) mode are very finicky about what text you’re able to select at all, and there is no “Reader” mode that sometimes helps iOS browsers like Safari, Diigo, and Dolphin facilitate dealing with recalcitrant text selection.
With compression mode activated, Opera Mini will frequently mistake a selected block of text for an image and the text contextual menu will refuse to appear. Cross-checking the same content with other browsers confirms that it actually is text. On occasions where one is successful at selecting some text, it refuses to select-scroll, and just drops the selection. This behavior renders Opera with compression enabled unusable as a day-to-day browser for my purposes, which is sad, because it’s wicked fast in its compression modes, and finally has a decent interface. With full Opera Mini compression off, text selection works resonably well, and subjectively seems to have been improved from previous iterations, but it maddeningly refuses to select text from search engine subject fields.
Opera Mini 8 lets you choose from three different levels of data compression (counting no compression as one mode).
- Opera Mini mode offers huge compression of web traffic, up to 90%, and data savings. In areas with poor coverage and tough network conditions Opera Mini saves you both time and money, subject to the caveat discussed above.
- Opera Turbo mode, which has been a feature in OS X Opera for years, now migrates to Opera Mini 8, where it saves slightly less data than Opera Mini mode, but offers better website compatibility, probably making it the ideal compromise browsing mode for most users, and with better text-handling.
- Data savings off is a no-compression, straight-to-the-source option, that ensures maximum website compatibility.
Switching among the three modes is easy and quick. Just tap the red Opera “O” at the upper far right to summon a preferences/settings/commands slider, and choose which level you want enabled. A readout of how much data you’re saving by choosing a compression mode is also provided.
The Speed Dial page, a concept pioneered by Opera many years ago, has been redesigned, allowing selection of one of several customizable Speed Dial entries to visit, or, by swiping to the left, get somewhat eclectic but customizable freshness content from the Discover feature, which lets you specify the content you want from a list of options such as Business, Technology, Food, and so forth.
The Discover feature will then serve up fresh content from a variety of news websites, blogs and more for a sampling of what’s new on the web.
Swipe right and you get your complete user history, from which you can recently visited webpages individually or completely clear them with the trash can-shaped “remove all” button.
Opera Mini now shows every open tab neatly stacked for a quick overview in the new tab gallery, so you can handle sites with simple gestures. Swipe left and right to quickly leaf through the open tabs, or swipe up on an open page to close it. For privacy, you can select New Private Tab from the menu, and you’re all set. You can switch easily between private and non-private tabs, keeping their open pages separate.
Opera Mini 8 is a substantial improvement over earlier versions, but still not quite there in terms of refinement. I’ll definitely use it more than I have earlier versions of Opera’s iOS browser, especially when speed and/or data usage and low bandwidth are issues.
Download Opera Mini
Developer: Opera Software ASA
Requirements: iOS 7.0 or later
Compatibility: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch
Version Reviewed: 8.0.0