Opera just made browsing on Symbian fun again

Opera logoI while ago I wrote about how Gravity, a native Twitter client for Symbian added some much-needed sexiness to that somewhat outdated operating system. But what Symbian was really lacking was a good, modern browser. And it seems like Opera has just fixed that.

Symbian’s built-in browser is painfully slow to use. It loads pages and then seems to re-render them using the attached style sheet (meaning it’ll first show you part of the page’s content and then appear to start all over again). It also does not play well with modern web apps that use lots of javascript and AJAX. I used it only if I had no other option, and greatly preferred the browser on my iPod Touch.

Mobile isn’t Mini

Image5When I first got my phone I installed Opera Mini, which, probably because it’s Java-based, wasn’t much of an improvement. It had other quirks, not so much fewer of them. But then a couple of days ago, Opera released a beta for their upcoming Opera Mobile 10 browser. I gave it a try, and I have to say I came away thoroughly impressed.

Innovative UI

Opera’s new offering has a completely reworked interface that feels very modern, and is extremely easy to use. It handled everything I threw at it (including things like Gmail and Transmission’s web interface). And apart from a few slowdowns it seemed rock solid. This, much like Gravity is a piece of software that breathes some life into Symbian again. Finally, Symbian users have acces to common features such as tabbed browsing. If the OS is to succeed as an open source project, it’s going to need programs like this. In fact, they I’d recommend they’d use Mobile’s UI as a starting point for a user interface redesign. Now if only Symbian would let you specify the default browser…

*** EDIT ***
In case you’re wondering how to change the default speed dial shortcuts, Opera Mobile has a ‘right mouse button’ function. On a non-touchscreen phone, select a thumbnail and click and hold the center D-pad button until a menu pops up. Another thing to keep in mind is the shift and ctrl keys work like on a regular keyboard. You need to hold them down while pressing the next key. This is a departure from Symbian conventions, and I’m not sure how I feel about this.

9 Comments

  1. I am very impressed with Opera’s 10. I have it on my MSI wind and it works great. No problems at all. My phone isn’t cool enough to warrant a real browser, but I would say that Opera has finally started to compete on a level plane now. I like it very much.

    Comment by Dan Smith — November 8, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

  2. Yes, completely agree.
    Opera Mobile 10 beta can handles heavy page just as built-in browser but much much easier to use. The UI in the built-in browser is just horrible.

    Comment by Rusa — November 11, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

  3. Great comments, and thanks for the tip on how to change the thumbnail “speed-dial” sites. My only frustration with Opera 10 and Mini is that it doesn’t seem to allow T9 input. Am I missing something?

    Comment by Dave — November 12, 2009 @ 5:16 pm

    • Dave, I have a full qwerty keyboard on my phone, so I never use T9, but I did find out that the default text input method does not allow me to use underscores or any of the other special chars hidden under the ‘chr’ button on Nokia smartphones. You can go to settings and turn ‘inline editing’ off to get regular text input. Chances are that will make T9 work as well, but it does take away from the smooth UI feeling to have Symbian text input boxes pop up all the time. I hope they fix this for the final release, shouldn’t be too hard to get a few buttons to work I imagine.

      Comment by Roy — November 13, 2009 @ 8:56 am

  4. I have been using Opera Mini in my Nokia N95 and it is really faster and reliable. the default browser is slow and a crap. You are right Opera has filled the void of Sybian phone.

    Thanks

    Comment by Sudam — November 13, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

  5. Hi Roy !

    First, congratulation for your blog, and your WP cumulus contribution !

    I did not give a try to Opera 10 Mobile but to Opera Mini 5 beta… and it gave web-life back to my Nokia 5800XM ! I don’t know If you can try it, but Opera also did a great job on it and give a real sens to web surfing on other touchscreen devices than Apple iPhone.

    I hope they really soon publish localized versions such as French language to really see it work with all features : for now I can’t directly google in French, I must go to google.fr… Well, great job Opera !

    A bientôt !

    Ben

    Comment by Ben — November 14, 2009 @ 7:53 am

  6. i have no words to say thanx to opera team ↲ for such a gr8 gift for symbian phones i luv 2 use it on my n95 8gb ↲ default browser was such a headache but we had to use that for rich flash pages but now in opera all solved now nokia should make contract with opera for up coming firmwares.↲↲↲some bugs which i should report here.↲↲i cant use symbols by pressing * 2nd bug is where is return key after 0 ?

    Comment by afzaal — November 15, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

  7. great post, great browser. Only problem is i can’t right-click i have no d-pad. I am using a samsung i8910 hd.

    Comment by Emko — December 29, 2009 @ 4:17 am

  8. I love Opera but seems to have small bug with thumbnail on start page at least on my N97 it isn’t shown properly

    Comment by Symbian Central — October 19, 2010 @ 12:04 pm