Opera Mobile 9.5 Beta Released - Hold Out for Beta 2

There's been a lot of activity in the mobile web browser game since Apple's iPhone completely redefined the web experience on a handheld. For the Windows Mobile user (like me), there isn't much out there that works like the desktop browsers. Opera Mobile has been one of the few decent ones (far better than Mobile IE), but still nowhere near the iPhone. I normally wouldn't complain, but Opera Mobile isn't free like Mobile Safari; I expect more from a paid product.

Opera has been stroking the buzz machine since they previewed their newest version of Opera Mobile some months back. It first appeared pre-loaded on the HTC Touch Diamond, but WinMo users with different hardware have had to wait to get their mittens on it.

Today they've finally unveiled Opera Mobile 9.5 Beta, their newest mobile web browser for Windows Mobile 5/6 touch screen devices.

I just installed it and ran it through its paces. Not to spoil it for everyone, but my best advice is to wait a few more builds. This thing is too buggy for primetime. However, there are a few good things to say.

The good:

Web page rendering is the best I've seen on a WinMo mobile browser so far. I still wouldn't call it up to snuff with iPhone, but it's getting much closer.

Scrolling on this version is far better than on the Touch Diamond. Opera's getting the smooth scrolling thing down, even if it's not always super responsive.

Look and feel is far improved over 8.65, and the core features are all there, like history, bookmarks, etc.

The ugly:

 - Let's start with space requirements. Opera says there may be issues installing it on a memory card, and 8.5 MB is a ton of space to give up for the install. And let's also not forget the space needed for things like the web cache.

 - Speed has a lot left to be desired. Pages load slowly, and scrolling around often incurs a wait time for the section to fill. I don't think it was as bad as others are making it out to be, but it could be better.

 - Image quality when viewing a full page could be significantly better. It's pixelated, grainy, and almost impossible to tell what the page looks like until you zoom in to normal size.

 - Flash support didn't make it in to this beta. :-(

 - It crashed more often than a public beta should.

 - The deal breaker - Every time I used it, all my notifcation settings for voice mail, SMS, and e-mail got disabled... permanently. I had to go back in to the settings area and turn it all back on. Why Opera would do this is beyond me... even if I'm surfing I'd like to know that I got a text message.

For me, it looks like it's back to the Skyfire beta. While it too has problems of its own, all of those problems go away after I hit 'Exit'... Opera Mobile's do not.

Now don't get me wrong; I see a ton of potential here, and I have no doubt this will end up being a stable, solid browser for Windows Mobile. It just needs a little more time in the oven. 


That's really a shame, actually. It would be awesome if Windows Mobile had a decent browser. Even though I'm currently an iPhone user, options are always nice to have, and there are many features of Windows Mobile that I like.

But I agree with you in saying that Safari on the iPhone reigns supreme as the king of mobile browsers. It just works. There are a few things that disappointment me about it sometimes, though - it slows down once in a while and still doesn't support Flash.

Maybe someday Windows Mobile will be compelling enough for me to want to switch back...


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