Opera Mini for iPhone, First Impressions

Jon and I have been playing with the new Opera Mini for the iPhone this morning. So far I have found no reason to use it over Safari. First, Opera Mini is slower than Safari (in my limited experience). This is probably the major killer.

Secondly, pages just don’t look good in Opera Mini. Compare:

NUGO in Safari Mobile

NUGO in Opera Mini

NU Homepage in Safari Mobile (landscape)

NU Homepage in Opera Mini (landscape)

The above images show how the two browsers loaded the pages initially. In Opera Mini’s portrait view, the initial page presentation is almost useless. Text is reduced to lines. Not that Safari’s text rendering is actually readable at that size, but it looks like text. The images look like clean images. In Opera Mini everything just feels compressed and rough. In landscape view, Opera Mini loaded the NU home page at full res which is just as unusable as the portrait small rendering and but has the added bonus of being disorienting.

My final complaint is small but to anyone who designs websites will be obvious: that red bar at the top of the application is no good. There are very few designs and very few color schemes which will be improved upon by adding a giant red block. We spend a lot of time deliberating over colors, spatial relationships, fonts, and white space. The browser should be neutral (or at least begin in a neutral state).

It will be interesting to see usage of Opera Mini for the iPhone over the next few months. I hope this does not become the IE of the iPhone.

Update: In response to Cary’s post – Opera Mini, as Cary points out is not meant to function in the same way as Safari, so perhaps comparing its rendering directly to Safari’s is out of line. While my initial reaction was a bit hasty, I still find that in general my mobile web browsing experience hasn’t been frustrating on the iPhone, certainly not enough so that I would feel the need to limit the quality of my web experience in the way that Opera Mini does. And most web services meant to be used ‘on the go’ are already very mobile-friendly. I can really see the potential for Opera Mini in more limited phones.

And there are nifty features like off-line browsing. I’m just not sure what ‘off-line’ means anymore.

Also I just hate seeing good design rendered poorly. And I still stand behind my point about the red bar.