Opera Mobile 10.1 Beta for Android: Review and Benchmark

Android doesn’t have a dearth of browsers. But as they say, the more the merrier. Opera Software has just released Opera Mobile for Android – the more capable sibling of Opera Mini. “Android users now have a better choice when it comes to using a browser on their mobile devices,” said Lars Boilesen, CEO, Opera Software. “With Opera’s new browser for Android, we give users the opportunity to access the Web, using the best tools available”.

The folks at Opera Software were kind enough to provide me a preview release in advance. I have been using Opera Mobile on a regular basis for almost a week on my Xperia X10 (Android 2.1), as well as Chinmoy’s Legend (Cyanogen 6). Here’s my in-depth review of Opera Mobile. Please keep in mind that this review was done using a pre-release build of Opera Mobile. It’s possible that there might have been some changes in the final build.


At first glance, Opera Mobile is indistinguishable from Opera Mini. However, under the hood, there are major differences. In Opera Mini, the webpages are first sent to Opera’s remote servers, where they are rendered and compressed, and then sent to your device. Opera Mini doesn’t render the webpage. Instead it simply displays the parsed output received from Opera Mini’s servers. The compression algorithm used by Opera Mini not only saves bandwidth, but also dramatically speeds up browsing on slower internet connections. On the other hand, Opera Mobile is fully capable of rendering webpages locally. This enables it to handle dynamic web content (powered by JavaScript, AJAX etc.) better than Opera Mini. However, if you wish, you still have the option of enabling compression to improve page loading speed on slower connections. In Opera Mobile, like in Opera for Desktop, this feature is called Opera Turbo.


As mentioned above, Opera Mobile’s biggest benefit over Opera Mini is its improved rendering capabilities. For example, it supports Geolocation, border-radius and CSS3 transitions. But, how does it stack up, when compared to other popular Android browsers? I compared it with Froyo’s stock browser and Firefox Mobile 4 Beta 2 (Fennec) to get an idea.

I started off with the Acid3 Test, which puts the browser’s CSS rendering capabilities through the paces. To my surprise, I found that none of the browsers managed to pass the test. Opera was the best performer, but by a fairly small margin.

Acid 3 Test: Higher is Better

Next, I used the Sputnik test to check out the JavaScript rendering abilities of Fennec, Opera Mobile and the default browser. Sputnik is a crucial benchmark that indicate how standard compliant the JavaScript engine of each browser is. Opera pretty much owned this test. In fact, it was the only mobile browser that managed to finish the test without crashing or stalling.

Sputnik: Lower is Better

Finally I picked the HTML5 Test to check out how future ready these browsers are. This test suite includes 300 tests that cover a wide-range of HTML5 and other related technologies that are likely to gain prominence in the future. Opera for desktop performs quite poorly in this test. Unsurprisingly, Opera Mobile fared even worse, with Fennec almost tripling Opera’s score.

HTML5 Test: Higher is Better

The other critical factor when choosing a browser is speed. Opera for desktop is currently the fastest browser in the market, with a sizeable lead over Chrome. Does the mobile counterpart live up to Opera’s reputation? I tested this too, using Sunspider artificial benchmark.

Sunspider Test: Lower is Better

I used my friend’s Samsung Galaxy S (Android 2.2 – Darky’s Raw Steel) to run the speed tests. Sadly, Opera Mobile turned out to be a dud in the speed department. Not only was it slower than Firefox and the stock browser, but it was so by a huge margin. To be honest, the results took me by surprise, as I didn’t notice any speed issues during my regular browsing sessions.

(Update: The poor benchmark scores are due to the lack of JIT support in this build. Opera Mobile’s scores should jump considerably once that is uncorked. )

Opera Mobile’s interface is amongst the best I have seen in mobile browsers. In many mobile browsers, tabs almost appear to be an afterthought. Switching between them is often clumsy and time-consuming. Not in Opera Mobile. Features such as instant history navigation (pages from the history are opened instantly) and speed dials only adds to the intuitiveness of Opera Mobile. Other features we have come to expect from Opera Mobile and Opera Mini are also present in this build. Some of the notable ones are – password manager, bookmark and speed dials synchronization, search engine bar, in-page find, saving of pages, private data cleaner, download manager and more. Today’s release also introduces Pinch-to-Zoom support to Opera’s mobile products for the first time.


Unfortunately, there are a few serious issues with Opera Mobile that might be a deal breaker for many. First of all, the installation is pretty huge. In fact, with a disk space (ROM) requirement above 22 MB, it is the largest installed app I currently have on my handset. Also, if you switch to some other app while using Opera Mobile, the browser will quit and will be restarted when you return to it. This is actually not too different from the way other browsers work, and thankfully, Opera Mobile’s loading time is quite small. In fact, it’s actually less than half of Firefox’s loading time. However, the problem is that if you press the back button before the page has been loaded, Opera fails so remember it. Finally, possibly the biggest disappointment for me is the lack of any social feature whatsoever. You can’t tweet links, share webpages on Facebook, or send links via SMS. Adding this shouldn’t be too hard for any Android app developer, and by not taking advantage of the opportunities offered by Android, Opera Software is missing out on a trick or two.

On the whole, Opera Mobile manages to impress on its very first outing. It has a lot going for it. The interface is intuitive and functional, there are plenty of unique features that make it stand out, and it has a competent rendering engine. If it can improve upon it’s JavaScript benchmark scores and become more social, it might manage to become the definitive Android web browser. Nevertheless, if the missing sharing options aren’t a deal-breaker for you, I would highly recommend checking it out.

[ Download Opera Mobile 10.1 Beta for Android | Appbrain ]

Firefox 4 Beta 2 for Android and Maemo Released: Faster and Sleeker

Although Mozilla is struggling to ship Firefox 4 for desktop operating systems, work on the mobile version seems to be going on at full throttle. Firefox 4 Beta 2 for Android and Maemo was released yesterday. I went hands-on with the Android version, and it’s definitely a significant improvement over past releases.

Start Page of Firefox for Android

No, the newest Firefox for Android won’t rock your world, but it is usable, and that alone makes it a significant improvement over its predecessors. One thing that I really like about Firefox Mobile (or Fennec) is its interface. It completely does away with the need of using hardware buttons. Instead, you can perform everything you wish to by simply swiping on the screen in different directions. Of course, this breaks the standard navigation model in Android, where you are supposed to press the ‘Menu’ button to bring up the application menu and tap the ‘Back’ button to go the previously open page. Some people might hate the change, but I wish that more applications followed this philosophy. Apps designed for the touchscreen should be completely controllable via the touchscreen alone.

TechieBuzz Rendered with Firefox for Android

Mozilla has tweaked the start page, which now displays tabs opened in the previous session, and can even fetch opened tabs from your computer, if you are using Firefox Sync. Other new features in this version include an extremely handy undo option for closed tabs, which allows you to recover accidentally closed tabs, and a context menu for links and webpages. You can now share any link or webpage by long pressing and choosing the sharing option that pops up. Mozilla has also slashed Firefox’s ROM space requirements from a ginormous 40 MB to about 17 MB. It’s still a lot more than what most apps require though.

Tab Management in Firefox for Android

While Firefox impresses with its interface and functionality, it lacks polish. I loved it at first glance, but things fell apart as soon as I started using it. I found the rendering to be choppy on occasions, and the browser takes way too long to load. The innovative interface also creates problems on websites that aren’t optimised for mobile phones. If the website has horizontal scrolling, you are going to find yourself accidentally triggering various UI (user interface) aspects quite frequently. Firefox only makes matters worse by not offering a text reflow mode. And finally, the one thing that really annoyed me, was the lack of copy-paste.

Opera is the king of the hill when it comes to mobile web browsers, and Opera Mobile for Android is slated to be released in a couple of days’ time. Mozilla has the advantage of a larger fan base and powerful extensions, but that might not matter much if they don’t hurry up.

Awesomebar in Firefox for Android

NotScripts: NoScript Extension for Opera and Chrome

A large number of browser exploits take advantage of JavaScript and third-party plugins like Java and Flash. NoScript is a popular multi-award winning Firefox add-on that blocks all such scripts and plugins, and allows you to intelligently and selectively execute them only on trusted websites.

I have always felt that using NoScript borders on the verge of paranoia, since it hinders normal web browsing experience. However, a lot of people obviously don’t mind this, since NoScript can protect users against scary click-jacking exploits, XSS vulnerabilities and even zero-day exploits that haven’t been discovered yet. Many Opera and Chrome users have been requesting similar functionality for a long time. However, most NoScript implementations for the aforementioned browsers have been limited due to the rigid nature of their APIs. Fortunately, Eric Wong has found an ingenious way of make NoScript work within the framework of Opera and Chrome’s extension library.

NotScripts is a NoScript inspired extension for Opera and Chrome, that utilises storage quota allocated to HTML5 applications and UserJS files to offer many of the functionalities present in NoScript. It supports both whitelist (everything is blocked, unless explicitly allowed) and blacklist (everything is allowed, unless explicitly blocked) approaches, and allows you to block scripts either temporarily or permanently.


NotScripts is still not perfect, and as mentioned earlier, taking a whitelist approach might create usability problems. Nevertheless, NotScripts is the best implementation of NoScript I have seen for either browser.

[ Download NotScripts for Chrome | Opera ]

Android 2.1 Update for Xperia X10s Will Begin Rolling Out on October 31

It’s finally official. The much delayed Éclair (Android 2.1) update for Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 series (Xperia X10, Xperia X10 Mini and Xperia X10 Mini Pro) will begin rolling out on October 31. As announced earlier, the update will be deployed in a phased manner. Nordic countries will be the first ones to get it. Users in the rest of the world should begin receiving Android 2.1 over the next couple of weeks. However, if you are using a branded (carrier locked) handset, you might have to wait longer. Xperia X8 owners are also out of luck, and probably won’t receive Android 2.1 before December.

Sony Ericsson’s inability to deliver updates on time has already damaged the company’s reputation as a reliable Android device manufacturer. In fact, it led to Gizmodo questioning how much longer Sony Ericsson is going to be around, and even prompted angry X10 owners to storm Sony Ericsson’s Live Chat support service.

The October 31 evening release date means that Sony Ericsson is waiting until the absolute last moment before pushing out the update. This, coupled with their earlier refusal to commit on a specific date, seems to suggest to me that Sony Ericsson is still struggling to polish the update to a satisfactory level. Let’s just hope that I am wrong.

Rumor: Samsung Set to Announce Google Nexus Two on November 8

Google-Nexus-TwoGoogle Nexus One might have been a commercial flop; however, it succeeded in securing a special place in the hearts of Android lovers, due to its combination of excellent hardware with open and no-nonsense software. The Nexus One became “the” phone to own for Android enthusiasts thanks to its quick updates, vanilla Android OS and unlocked bootloader. Unfortunately, Google’s direct online purchase model bombed, leading Eric Schmidt (CEO, Google) to remark that Google will not be selling phones in the future. However, according to latest rumors floating around, this might not entirely be true.

According to Android and Me, the Nexus Two exists and is coming soon. Samsung will reportedly unveil the Nexus Two in a press event being held on November 8. Radio Android also picked up the same information through an anonymous tipster. The available information suggests that the new device will be called the Nexus S, and as far as hardware is concerned, will be identical to the Samsung Galaxy S series of phones. This means that it will sport a 4-inch SAMOLED screen and will be powered by a Hummingbird processor.

The real differentiating factor will be the software. The Nexus S is expected feature the vanilla flavor of Gingerbread (Android 3.0/2.3). Additionally, like the Nexus One, it will also have an unlocked bootloader that will facilitate the installation of custom ROMs.

As you might expect, neither Samsung nor Google is willing to confirm or deny the speculations. Samsung has only confirmed that it will be announcing a new Android phone on November 8. According to the DroidGuy’s sources, the handset being launched by Samsung will not be the successor to Nexus One. Nevertheless, we are keeping our fingers crossed. Either way, if you are thinking about purchasing a new Android phone, we highly recommend that you wait for a few more days before making a decision.

Opera Mini 5.1 for Android and Symbian Updated

Opera Mini for both Android and Symbian has received minor updates. While the Symbian update is mainly concerned with improving performance, the Android update delivers improved readability and usability. The detailed changelogs are as follows:

Opera Mini 5.1 Beta for Symbian Changelog

  • Faster start up time.
  • Even faster page loading.
  • Improved scrolling performance.
  • Integration with your your phone native input.
  • Improved performance, especially for older S60 devices.
  • Improved fonts.
  • Device integration for cut-and-paste, email client and more.
  • No more dialogue boxes asking permission to connect to the Web.

Opera Mini 5.1 for Android Changelog

  • Adjusted font sizes.
  • Font fixes for Chinese and Japanese, so speed on pages with these fonts should be greatly improved.
  • Improved stability.
  • Improved input for Sony Ericsson X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro.
  • Chinese users can now download the application from the Android Market.
  • A bunch of bug fixes.


Opera Mini, the most popular mobile browser in the world, offers full-fledged tabbed browsing, password management, bookmarks, speed dial, synchronization and more on almost any phone. Opera Mini routes all data through its servers where it is processed and compressed before being sent to the handset. This makes Opera Mini significantly faster than most other mobile browsers on slower networks. However, this also means that, unlike Opera Mobile, Opera Mini isn’t able to render rich web content that heavily utilizes AJAX and other modern technologies. Opera Mobile is designed for modern-day smartphones and delivers a truly PC like web browsing experience. It is already available for Symbian and should be released for Android within the next couple of days.

You can download the latest build of Opera Mini from the respective app repositories (Ovi Store for Symbian and Market for Android) or by simply browsing to m.opera.com on your mobile phone.

Firefox 4 Won’t Be Ready Until 2011

Last week, we pointed out that the development of Firefox 4 was taking a lot longer than anticipated, as a result of which, the final version might not be released by the end of this year. A short while back, Firefox’s director Mike Beltzner, confirmed our fears in an update posted on Mozilla’s Dev Planning group. He wrote:

As those who have been tracking our nightly builds know, great things are happening with Firefox 4. The user interface changes are converging, the graphics and layout features are wrapping up, and recently the JavaScript engine was dramatically improved. The result is a fast, capable Firefox that provides better speed and responsiveness for web applications and users. Completing this work is taking longer than initial estimates indicated as we track down regressions and sources of instability. As part of our commitment to beta users, we will not ship software before it is ready.


Firefox 4 Beta 7, which was originally expected to arrive on Sept 17, will ship in early November. Similarly, the release date of Beta 8 has been pushed back from October 1 to Nov 12. The RC build (Release Candidate) should arrive in early 2011, which will be followed shortly thereafter by the final build.

Yahoo Mail Gets a Facelift, Promises to Be Faster and More Social

After pretty much remaining stagnant and watching Gmail steal its thunder (repeatedly), Yahoo has finally updated its email service. The first significant update to Yahoo Mail in five years, promises to deliver a “faster, safer and more social email experience”.

I tried checking it out with my old Yahoo Mail account, which I solely use for signing up to newsletters that I am never going to read, and was immediately told that my browser (Opera 11) is not good enough for the latest and the greatest from Yahoo’s stables. Anyways, after I switched to Chrome, I was greeted by an interface that had way too much purple for my comfort, but will probably appeal to girls.


As far as features are concerned, the biggest addition is the integration of Twitter and Facebook into the “What’s New” page. You can track what your contacts are doing on Facebook and Twitter, retweet their messages, or even update your status directly from Yahoo Mail. YouTube, Flickr and Picasa have also been smartly integrated so that you can watch videos and slideshows from your friends and family members without leaving Yahoo Mail.


The user interface is essentially the same tabbed experience we have grown used to over the past five years, with some improvements here and there. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing though. Yahoo is also promising to offer a similar look and feel on the iPhone, iPad or an Android device.


If you are a Yahoo Mail user, you can opt-in for the beta from here.

First Pictures of Sony Ericsson’s PlayStation Phone Leaked

Back in August, we reported that Sony Ericsson was working with Google to develop an Android powered PlayStation phone. The gaming smartphone was rumoured to have a “3.7 4.1 inch touchscreen display with a WVGA resolution, and a landscape slider with gaming controls”. Now, first images of the phone have emerged (courtesy of Engadget) that confirms most of the rumors.



The leaked images are mostly in line with the mockup that was released earlier. The PlayStation phone will have a 1GHz Qualcomm MSM865 processor, 512 MBs of RAM, 1 GB of ROM, and will probably run on Android Gingerbread (Android 3.0). It will also have a front facing camera (visible in the first picture), and support microSD cards.

Engadget was told that the software is still very buggy, making a 2010 release unlikely. It’s also worth considering that Sony Ericsson has a horrible track record when it comes to delivering updates and launching products on time.

Download Windows 7 Service Pack 1 RC

Microsoft has released the first RC (Release Candidate) build of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 to the general public. In order to install the service pack, you must have a final RTM version of Windows 7. Moreover, if you have already installed a previous build of the service pack, you will have to uninstall that first. Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Release Candidate has also been made available for download.

Windows 7 SP1 doesn’t include any major new features. It’s mostly a collection of previously released hotfixes and updates. However, the server edition introduces two new features – RemoteFx and Dynamic memory, which were discussed earlier. The final build is expected to be released in Q1, 2011.

[ Download Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 Release Candidate ]