7.11.07

Thoughs on Opera Mini 4


For frequent readers of this blog there's no surprise on the fact that I am a fan of mobile computing: I use a cheap mobile phone (Motorola E1 Rokr) as a modem, SSH client and as a web browser. To do so I use a simple setup: the mobile' stock functionality to work as a modem, MidpSSH as a SSH and telnet client (BTW, if you know of any alternative to this one that lets you choose the port instead of assuming the default ports for this services, I appreciate), and Opera Mini as a mobile web browser.

I use Opera Mini as a web browser for the cellphone since more or less one month after I got it, and I was kindly surprised by it: it obviously surpasses the poor browser that comes stocked with the cellphone. At last years' XTech I talked with an Opera guy working on Mini and talked about some flaws I thought it had, but I was happy with the browser, and, as I told him, I believed Opera Mini would be the mobile browser of choice (Opera Mobile isn't for me, like any other non-free_as_in_beer browser) at least until the Mozilla Foundation didn't start a serious effort in the field. At the time I was using Opera Mini 2, which was quickly replaced by Opera Mini 3: a not-so-major improovement in terms of usability, and with a change that I didn't like: the default search engine (that can't be changed) is Yahoo! Search (which - sorry - I can't get used too, as I also talked about earlier on this blog, regarding to search I'm addicted to Google). But, overall, it was a nice update, and I started using the mobile browser more and more... And relying on it for a great number of things.

Opera Mini 4 promises a cool few number of things. I've tried the first beta but it was too unstable, I've tried the second beta but, while better, was still worse (in terms of stability/usability) than Opera Mini 3. One cool thing Opera guys decided to do was to make Opera Mini 4 another application and not just another version (which lets Opera Mini 3 cohexist with Opera Mini 4 in the same mobile phone), and each time another beta version comes out you'll be prompted to upgrade (I hope they'll do this until the final version is out). I wasn't using Opera Mini 4 much, but...

This past week I started to really need to use a ill designed web application that didn't work on Opera Mini 3. Opera Mini 4 beta 2 was having some issues, but since it prompted me to upgrade to beta 3 I did it, and not only it solved my problem (now I can actually use that application, even if some stuff doesn't work) but it solved most of the problems I had with previous versions.

Opera Mini 4 comes with a really nice set of features, like "web view" vs. "mobile view", landscape view (gives you an horizontal screen instead of a vertical one) and fullscreen, giving you more active area and content displayed. I decided that that's what I really wanted/needed, so I decided to ditch Opera Mini 3 and starting to use Opera Mini 4. Well, now I have a bigger problem: Opera Mini 4 is completely useless for some of the websites I visit the most with Opera Mini 3, I only know it when it is too late, and I'll need to restart the browser if I stumble across one of those websites. What makes it worse is that it happens because Opera Mini 4 misses one Opera Mini 3 critical feature: the division of pages in "mobile view".

Let me explain: when in mobile view we're viewing stuff as Opera Mini 3 did. Opera Mini 3 seems the amount of data to display, and if it is more than a certain value, it breaks that content into several pages. That makes you able to load a webpage with hundreds of Kb's of data, because it will load just the first set, and then when you go to the next page or the previous page it loads that set. That actually means that not only navigation (while in a set) is quickier, but, more importantly, it means that you can load a 1Mb page because it will split it in chunks with certainly less than 100K each and display each one at a time. If you try to load that page in Opera Mini 4 what will happen is that you'll browser will try to load all that 1Mb of data... and make your cellphone run out of memory.

So, dear Opera Mini coders, can you please give me that wonderful feature back? Please? If you don't do it I'll have to keep being a user of both Opera Mini 3 and 4... And pray that you don't decide to take Opera Mini 3 out of air for when I switch to another cellphone.