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10/28/2010
09:22 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Opera Debuts Native Symbian Browser

Opera Software made a new version of Opera Mini available to the Symbian platform. Opera Mini 5.1 is significant because it is a native -- and not a Java -- application.

Opera Mini 5.1 (beta) is a free download from Opera, available starting today. The browser offers many of the same features that Opera Mini is known for, such as Speed Dial, tabbed browsing, and bookmark syncing.

Opera Mini has long been a Java-based application for Nokia's S60 and Symbian handsets. Java has its benefits, sure, but nothing beats a native browser built specifically for a given platform. That's why Opera has offered Opera Mobile alongside Opera Mini for a richer, fuller browsing experience. With the arrival of a native Symbian version of Opera Mini, the distinction between the two just got a little fuzzier.

Opera says that the new, native version of Opera Mini 5.1 offers a number of key improvements that weren't possible with the Java-based application. Opera Mini 5.1 offers: support for more devices than ever; significantly faster start-up time; improved page-load and scrolling performance, especially on older devices; full support for device text input methods; improved fonts; device integration for copy and paste, email client and more; and the option to choose default access point — no more annoying dialogs.

This last point will make Nokia users happy. One of S60's biggest annoyances comes in the form of pop-up dialog boxes asking permission to do things. Setting a default access point will negate the need for one of the most annoying dialog boxes of them all.

The key difference between Opera Mini and Opera Mobile still lies in how web pages are delivered and rendered on the devices. Opera Mini is a proxied browser, and Opera compresses web sites on its servers before delivering them to handsets. Opera Mobile is a full, on-device browser that does all the heavy lifting on the handset itself. The benefit of Opera Mini is that it can help save users money when it comes data charges.

"It is Opera's objective to provide its users with the best possible web-surfing experience on any device," said Christen Krogh, Chief Development Officer, Opera Software. "Porting Opera Mini to the Symbian programming language provides the largest user base in the smartphone world with the best mobile browsing experience."

According to Opera, the new software is compatible with over 3,000 different mobile phones. It is available first in English, with support for other languages to follow.

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