Tag Archives: Android
Opera Software's Webkit/Blink based Opera Browser for Android, currently at Version 16.0 keeps getting better with every release. I especially like it because it lets me try the latest Blink engine on my older Gingerbread phones that can't run Chrome Browser.
Although the Opera Browser is coming along well in terms of performance and stability it's still lacking some basic features like the ability to edit, import or sync bookmarks. That's because there's no real support for the Opera Link bookmark synchronization which has been part of every Opera browser since 2008.
Actually, Opera Browser CAN import bookmarks from the old Presto based Opera Mobile browser - which in turn does support Opera Link. The trick is to have Opera Mobile installed and then install the Opera Browser over the top of it replacing Opera Mobile. During the install all of Opera Mobile's Speed Dial shortcuts and bookmarks will be imported. So to get all your Opera Link bookmarks and Speed Dials in the Opera Browser you just have to install Opera Mobile, sync once with Opera Link and then install Opera Browser.
That would be easy except that Opera Mobile for Android has disappeared from the Play Store and the Opera site. Well not actually disappeared, it's been renamed Opera Classic so that it can be installed alongside Opera Browser. That's nice but it also means that if you didn't have Opera Mobile installed when you first installed the Opera Browser you missed your only chance to import your bookmarks.
Fortunately there is a workaround that lets you do a one-time import of your Opera Link Speed Dial and bookmarks. Before I installed Opera Browser I made a backup of the last release of Opera Mobile, version 12.1.14. I've put a copy of the Opera Mobile .apk on the Wap Review Download page. So if you want your Opera Link Speed Dial and bookmarks in Opera Mobile here's what you need to do:
- Download and install Opera Mobile 12.1.14 from here: wapreview.com/dwnld/Opera Mobile_12.1.4.apk
- Run Opera Mobile, enable Opera Link (Menu > Settings > Opera Link) and wait for it to finish synchronizing
- Install Opera Browser from the Play Store. If you are running Gingerbread you won't see the Opera Browser in the Play Store but you can download it directly from Opera at: choice.opera.com/mobile/download/versions/ and in most cases it will work.
When Opera Browser launches you will see all your Speed Dial shortcuts plus a new one labeled "Legacy Bookmarks". Click to see your imported bookmarks. It you have saved some bookmarklets in Opera Link they will be imported too but will only work in the Opera Browser's Opera Mini based "OffRoad Mode" not in direct mode.
Opera Software has released an updated Beta of their Chrome/Webkit based Opera Browser for Android. According to Opera the changes in this version include:
- Chromium upgrade to version 29
- Compression method change in Off-road mode
- Improvements in download manager
- Improved NFC communication
- Various stability and performance fixes
Opera wants Beta testers to concentrate on testing Off-road mode, so it's enabled by default in this version. I switched freely between the two modes and didn't see any differences in rendering and performance between them. So it seems we are getting reduced data use "for free" with no loss in functionality.
I tested the new Opera Browser Beta on my somewhat dated Motorola Photon 4G, which although it has a dual core processor and 1 GB of RAM, is stuck on Gingerbread due a lack of display and camera drivers compatible with current Android kernels.
The Opera Beta ran quite well on the Photon except for an annoying and unexpected bug. For some reason the Opera Browser displayed all text on every page using a serif font (image below, left), completely ignoring the font-families specified by the page's designers. The font issue seems to be specific to either the Photon or Gingerbread as it didn't occur on my wife's Nexus S running Jellybean.
Except for the ugly font issue, Opera worked pretty well on the Photon with accurate rendering, mostly good usability and smooth scrolling, although the browser did sometimes freeze for several seconds while loading large pages.
On the Nexus, which has a single core processor and only 512 MB of RAM, performance was a bit degraded compared to Opera Mobile Classic or the Android browser. Opera Beta performed much like the Chrome browser on the same phone. It was usable but scrolling wasn't particularly fluid and moving between fields on some web forms caused the browser to freeze momentarily.
On the more powerful Photon, the browser was usable on every site I tried except Quartz's qz.com responsive site which is kind of an acid test for mobile browsers. The only browsers I've used that Quartz works properly in are iOS Safari and Firefox Mobile. Not surprisingly, the Opera Browser Beta struggled with Quartz, frequently displaying blank pages and freezing when I tried to scroll.
The latest Opera Browser was stable on both devices. In my testing I used the Beta for about 5 hours over several days. The browser never crashed or force closed but a couple of times it encountered an error and displayed a sad cat graphic. In both cases I was able to recover by refreshing the page.
Overall I'd rate the latest Opera Browser Beta a worthwhile upgrade from previous versions. Stability is improved and the new Off-road works properly with many more sites, although it doesn't seem to be as good at reducing data consumption as the old Opera Mini based one. Over the course of my testing Off-road mode reported that it had reduced data traffic by 60%. The old Opera Mini based Off-road mode typically achieved better than 80% data savings.
In spite of the improvements I'm not ready to make the Opera Browser my daily driver for for a couple of reasons. The font problem is an obvious show stopper but it it doesn't effect the majority of devices, just mine.
A bigger problem that effects everyone is Opera's lack of proper bookmark management. It's possible to bookmark the page that you are viewing but there's no way to edit bookmarks and that means no bookmarklets. I can't live with a browser that doesn't support bookmarklets, which I use multiple times every day for things like saving interesting content on pinboad.in, sharing it on social media, translating pages with Google translate, viewing a page's http headers or its Google Page Rank or a host's whois information or fixing a page's with unreadably low contrast text. You can partially work around the lack of bookmarklet support by installing a bunch of apps, but that adds unnecessary bloat to your device to support something that every other Android browser supports out of the box.
Opera Browser Beta 16 for Android is available in the Play Store for most devices running Android 2.3 or latter.
On Monday Opera Software released Opera Browser 14. This is the first non-Beta Opera browser to be based on the open source WebKit layout engine rather than Opera's legacy in-house Presto engine. Opera Browser 14 uses a very recent 537.71 version of WebKit. That's even newer than the WebKit version used by the Chrome browser for Android. And unlike Chrome, which requires Android 4.0 or later, Opera Browser 14 runs on Android 2.3 and later bringing the benefits of the latest WebKit to millions of older phones that can't run Chrome.
Opera has announced its intention to use WebKit for all new releases going forward. While I think this is a smart move for Opera, I believe that they jumped the gun a bit with this release. Opera 14 replaced Opera 12.1 in the Android Play Store and when installed it replaces 12.1 on the phone. Some users with auto app update enabled likely got a bit of a shock when then opened Opera for the first time after the update. The new browser looks nothing like the old and has a completely different user interface.
I generally like the updated UI. It's cleaner and more modern looking, and switching tabs takes fewer clicks. I especially like how the top navigation toolbar scrolls off the screen for a true full screen view unmarred by the semi-transparent buttons of previous Opera versions. The navigation bar can be moved to the bottom of the screen as many users seem to prefer. However I like to keep it on the top as there's no full-screen option when it's on the bottom.
Unfortunately, Opera Browser 14 is missing a number of its predecessor's features including;
- Opera Link bookmark and Speed Dial synchronization is gone, replaced by access to the read-only online version at link.opera.com.
- There's no tablet support, and Opera Mobile 12, which did support tablets, has disappeared from the Play Store.
- There are no Bookmarks. There's a partial replacement in that it's now possible to create Speed Dial folders. However folders within folders are not supported.
- Speed Dial target URLs are no longer editable
- Bookmarklets don't work
- The ability to choose a folder when downloading is gone
- With the old Opera Mobile you could easily and extensively customize font sizes, folder locations, the browser user agent and much more using a hidden menu that was accessed by typing opera:config in the address bar. These types of customizations are either gone or relocated and undocumented in Opera Browser 14.
The new Opera works well on my old by speedy dual-core Motorola Photon Android 2.3 phone with its gigabyte of RAM. Browser start-up takes a bit longer than I'd like but once launched Opera 14 seems snappy and does better with most of the poorly designed sites that don't render well or work properly in Opera Mobile 12.1. However on my wife's equally old but single core Nexus S with 512MB RAM, Opera 14 is quite sluggish. Chrome and Firefox Mobile perform better than Opera 14 on the Nexus S.
I like where Opera is going with WebKit. But, I wish they had kept the WebKit version a Beta at least until it was feature complete with Opera Link style synchronization, multi-level hierarchical bookmarks and tablet support. I doubt that Opera Webkit will ever be as fast on low end hardware as the lean and mean legacy Presto Opera. But I expect it will eventually be at least as performant as Android Chrome.
It you upgraded to Opera 14 and want to go back to Opera 12.1, the .apk download is available at opera.com/mobile/download/versions/. If you get an error installing, go to Settings > Applications settings and enable Unknown sources.
Update, Opera Mobile 12.1 is now available in the Play Store as Opera Mobile Classic. It installs alongside Opera Browser 14 but doesn't import your Opera bookmarks and Speed Dials.
On Monday Opera Software released Opera Mini 7.5.2 for Android. It was mostly a bug fix release but also included font changes. I noticed that the fonts on many sites were smaller in the new release. The new fonts made text on the effected sites hard to read and I immediately went back to the previous 7.5.1 version. Play Store reviews of the new version were largely negative as were comments on Opera's own forums.
Today Opera released Opera Mini Android version 7.5.3 to address the font size issue. I upgraded to the new version and can confirm that font sizes are larger in 7.5.3 (third image, above) than they were in 7.5.2 (middle image) but are still a little smaller than in 7.5.1 (first image). Click the images to view them in their original size. I find the new fonts readable. According to a post on the Opera Mini Forum the changes in 7.5.3 are:
- Font size and page layout improvements
- Fixed crash on http://www.drudgereport.com/
The new version identifies itself as 7.5.33361 in the browser's Help > About Menu. It's available now from the Android Play Store. I wasn't able to find a direct apn download on opera.com. Users without Play Store access download a copy from WapReview here: Opera Mini_7.5.3.apk (7.5.33361)
Related Post: Opera Mini For Android Updated to Version 7.5.2