Opera Releases Mini 5 Browser

The latest version of the mobile browser has tabbed browsing, a password manager, and improved touch-screen controls.
Opera Software released Wednesday a beta version of its popular mobile browser, and Opera Mini 5 boasts multiple new features and a new user interface.

The browser is available for a wide variety of devices including feature phones with Java ME, as well as Windows Mobile and BlackBerry smartphones. Opera Mini is compatible with multiple platforms because it uses server-side compression technology that eases the bandwidth and hardware requirements needed to surf the Web from a mobile device.

Opera said the latest version of its mobile browser compresses pages by up to 90% before they are sent to a phone, which improves page-load times. Opera Mini 5 also adds tabbed browsing, a password manager, improved scrolling, and a refined user interface that has better support for touch-screen handsets.

Opera has brought some of the features of its desktop browser to Opera Mini 5, including the "speed dial" feature which is a set of visual bookmarks for Web pages when the user opens a new tab. The beta version is available for multiple devices, and it can be downloaded directly to a phone from Opera's Web site.

Opera is the leading player in the mobile browsing space, as StatCounter estimated it has about 25% of the mobile surfing market. The market for mobile browsing is becoming increasingly competitive, as Apple's mobile Safari is a close second with 22% of the market, and Nokia has 21%.

In addition to the on-deck browsers, Opera is facing competition from multiple companies trying to capitalize on the growing demand for surfing the Internet on the go. Mozilla is trying to replicate the success it had on the desktop with its mobile Fennec browser, and it includes support for extensions and has strong JavaScript support. Skyfire has also created a lot of buzz with its product because it enables mobile users to access and interact with Web sites built with Flash, Ajax, JavaScript, Silverlight, and other rich Web technologies.

With strong browsers like Opera Mini, smartphones could eventually replace your laptop as a mobile computing device. InformationWeek analyzed how handhelds are becoming over-the-air portals for enterprise apps, and the report can be downloaded here (registration required).

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