Opera Software on Wednesday released a new version of its Opera Mini 5.1 browser for Android handsets.
Opera has been pushing hard to gets its browsers on smartphones. Earlier this year it brought Opera Mini to the iPhone (and scored over one million downloads in the first 24 hours), and now Opera Mini 5.1 has graduated from beta status for Android.
The newest version of Opera Mini for Android offers more refinement than it does dazzling new features. According to Opera, the new Android browser can be set as the default browser on Android handsets. That means Opera users won't have to manually choose which browser each and every time they click on a Web link.
Opera also says that Opera Mini 5.1 is better optimized for Android handsets with larger screens. Given the preponderance of Android handsets wielding 4.3-inch displays, that will surely be helpful.
Opera Mini's biggest feature remains unchanged: it still compresses wireless data by about 90%. For Android users who are on unlimited data plans, that's not so important. If you're subscribed to AT&T's $15-per-month 200MB plan, however, it could mean the difference between a normal bill with no overages and Bill Shock. Opera says that its compression not only saves megabytes on your data plan, but it also helps the browser render pages faster.
All the other usual Opera Mini offerings are included with Mini 5.1. Tabbed browsing, password manager, bookmarks, Speed Dial, and syncing with your PC are all on board.
"Opera Mini 5.1 for the Android platform is the next step in bringing the world's most popular mobile web browser to all major platforms, offering improved performance and great web experience to almost any handset," said Lars Boilesen, CEO, Opera Software in a prepared statement. "Opera Mini is used by over 61 million people on more than 3000 handset models and with today's release Opera continues its mission to provide the best web experience on any device and on any platform."
Opera Mini is definitely a useful alternative to the native Android browser. It's a free download from the Android Market, and is worth checking out if you're not 100% sold on the Android browser.
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