Opera Software just unveiled Opera Mobile 10.1 beta for Android tonight, but we've had a chance to play around with a prerelease version for several days. Opera has already had a presence on Android phones in the form of Opera Mini, a Java-based proxy browser that delivers Web pages fed through Opera's servers. Opera Mobile, by contrast, is a standalone HTML browser that can request, render, and display Web content independently of Opera's servers.
On the front end, the two apps look identical, down to the log-in screen and license agreement you'll have to accept before you can begin browsing. Opera Mini 5 and Opera Mobile 10.1 beta both have tabbed browsing, and a signature nine-entry "speed dial" for storing favorite sites. There's also a password keeper, long-press context menus, and support for Opera Link, Opera's service for syncing bookmarks, favorites, notes, and browser history across Opera browsers.
Mobile versus Mini Despite the similarities, there are a couple of significant differences between the two Android browsers. Opera Mini is usually the faster of the two browsers, a move that hearkens back to Opera's days making browsers move quickly on feature phones with slow processors and slow data connections. As a result, Opera's servers compress Web page data; this assures that pages load in a timely manner, but it also reduces text and image resolution quality. Besides that, there's no Flash support.
Opera Mobile, on the other hand, renders images (using its Presto rendering engine) with more clarity. If the browser seems too sluggish for your tastes, you can engage Opera Turbo, Opera's compression engine, to essentially make Opera Mobile adopt Opera Mini's levels of compression and speed. Opera Mobile beta doesn't currently support Flash, although an Opera representative assured CNET that the release version will.
Naturally, we tried out Opera Mobile 10.1 beta and Opera Mini 5 side by side on Android phones. In addition to rendering more clearly, Opera Mobile displays the desktop version of CNET.com, whereas Opera Mini opts for the faster-loading mobile-optimized site, which is also lighter in content and imagery. … Read more