Opera Mini on Treo Review

My idea was to write a complete review from my Treo, using Opera Mini. After writing couple of sentences or even more, I tried copying the content that I wrote to the clipboard using FieldPlus’ Shift- Enter keyboard shortcut. Oh! what a bad decision that was, everything went off and I was with a blank screen. Looks like since Opera Mini run’s on top off Java VM, it has problems with the standard Palm OS keys and perhaps it will have problems with any mobile OS.

I was using Treo’s Blazer browser for quite some time. That used to work for most of the sites, but failed miserably on Google adsense login.  It could be due to the time taken for the AJAX interface to load on my slow GPRS connection, I don’t know for sure. I had tried Opera Mini earlier and it was crashing, required too much RAM and was not all like my Opera on desktop. I was a bit apprehensive in trying out stuff, but I had time and installed IBM Java VM. The download is free from palmone’s site and is a prerequisite in running Opera. On installation on the VM (version J9 2.2.14 ARM 20070207_1505_IHsCmV), you can adjust the settings from the Preferences applet. Also a MIDlet manager appears among the list of applications. Next was the Opera Mini installation which went fine. No glitches what so ever. The Opera about ( taken from Menu -> Tools -> Help -> About ) show the version number as 4.0.9800 20071113(should be the build date). I’m a fan of having the build date on the version information, I usually do that and it can really tell the age of the software.

 

Features Overview

  • Fast, yes its really fast, the VM clumsiness is overcome by the proxy I guess. Opera does not render the site directly. It uses a proxy server cluster for doing the rendering and then transferring the data to a format supported by Opera Mini. On researching I’ve found that the rendering is done using an ultra compact binary language (OBML) that reduces the page size by 90% and the result is sent to the mobile phone.
  • Shortcut key support, could be very useful for mobile devices without QWERTY keyboard.
  • Speed dials feature is akin to the desktop opera. In Opera Mini you enter * followed by a digit from 0 to 9 to open the set speed dial web page.
  • Context menu is available on keeping the stylus pressed, with options for enabling and disabling mobile view, reloading and Information.
  • Fetch title and icon feature is a cute feature, that’s available for speed dials and Search links. It lets you retrieve the icon and page title and that’s reflected in the UI of the bookmarks of speed dial lists.
  • Opera defaults to yahoo search, but like its desktop counterpart you can add any search provider like Google. Management of the search providers is relatively easy.
  • Feed support is native within the browser, you don’t need any feed reader. BBC News,Sport, Guardian, Opera Community News and Opera Mini Blog are the default additions.You have the option to view by feed or view by time which sorts by Feed name and most recent feed entry respectively.
  • Opera Browser sync is touted to sync between opera desktop bookmarks but I have not tested it.
  • Its 100% FREE.
  • Know the transferred bytes for a session or total from the about screen. Looks like its not retained during a soft reset.

The default keyboard shortcuts for Opera Mini is given below

    #1 Enter Web Address
    #2 Bookmarks
    #3 Goto top/bottom/text start
    #4 Start Page
    #5 History
    #6 Page Information
    #7 Add Bookmark
    #8 Settings
    #9 Search
    #0 Reload
    ## Forward
    *0 to *9 Speed dial
    *0 Feeds
    ** Change Window Size

 

Limitations

  • Cannot use the OS default key functionality, limited by the JVM. Keys like the context menu key not working is really irritating.
  • When there’s an Internet connect request, it pops up the OS’s dial-up screen which states To complete the request you must connect to the Internet. Connect now ? This does not appear correctly, its visible only partly on the screen and would be confusing a new user.Even the service connection progress window goes outside the screen. Its probably another JVM  issue or due to the memory preference setting. Update: On increasing the JVM memory  and
  • Much stable than the previous version of Opera Mini, but still crashes,  with a soft reset being the only solution.
  • No password remembering options, well that’s not there even in Blazer
  • Feed management and Bookmark management UI lacks the option of deleting multiple entries at a time and I don’t know why it shows ‘connecting…’ to delete an entry.
  • Asking each time whether Opera Mini has to connect and use airtime is another minor irritant.

Blazer comparison

On the Treo 650, the default browser is Blazer. It was good enough but its far behind in comparison to Blazer. The UI of Blazer is more Palmy and can get the Palm user feel at home. Opera Mini 4 is really different.

Features missing in Opera Mini when compared to Blazer

  1. Cannot copy the web address to clipboard or paste it to address bar from clip board. You cannot send a link as SMS or email easily.
  2. No tool bar buttons, for a device with stylus, its much easier to click a button than to press a shortcut key. Screen estate is actually wasted for displaying time. Yes there’s one option ‘back’ in the status bar and there’s enough and more space to add buttons for basic stuff like refresh,homepage,bookmarks, next and signal strength .
  3. Blazer allows to connect via VPN but I couldn’t find a similar option in Opera.
  4. No option to view passwords while entering, it’s very much there in Blazer
  5. No address bar.
  6. No auto complete of previous site addresses.
  7. No way to disable cookies or JavaScript.
  8. Tap and drag – Blazer has an option to select between text selection and scrolling.
  9. Not that its needed with the proxy, but option to disable CSS is present in Blazer.
  10. Selection of a  custom proxy is  set from the IBM Java VM preferences. Not very intuitive.
  11. Option to clear Cookies and cache on exit is not present in Opera.
  12. No option to get back to previous page once you exit Opera Mini.

 

The proxy at http://server4.operamini.com:80 is what makes Opera Mini fast. You can find whether the proxy address is the same from the the About screen of Opera Mini. Out of curiosity I set this as the proxy server for my Internet host and I got a message stating that its’ plugin content. So this proxy can’t be used for your normal browser on a slow connection. Another thi
ng that I tested was trying opera:config,opera:about. opera:help etc in the address bar. It resulted in an invalid address except for opera:about, which showed Version 10.00, Build 217, Platform Pike v 7.6 release 92 and long list of 3rd party copyrights and miscellaneous info. Its probably the server cluster version number and information.

Conclusion

Overall I like Opera Mini as much as Opera on my desktop I’ve started using it as my primary browser on my Treo and yes to to check my adsense revenue..
Even with its quirks with clipboard and without auto completion. The speed compensates for most of its limitations and then I believe Opera will definitely come out with a more feature complete product soon. I wanted to put some screen shots but couldn’t get PDA Reach working.