Web browsing news: Opera Mini 5b; no Iris browser any more; Fennec 1.0b3


1. The first beta of Opera Mini 5, with a completely redesigned interface on both touchscreen and non-touchscreen phones has been released.

It’s accessible at m.opera.com/next (which takes you to the official homepage when visited from a desktop browser) from your handset, should you prefer installing it on-the-fly. (This worked without problems on by BB 8800; in my WinMo tests, I used the JAR downloaded and transferred to the handset separately.) The dedicated threads are HERE, HERE and HERE).

I’ve thoroughly tested it on my VGA iPAQ 210 running the Jbed MIDlet manager and the BlackBerry 8800.

Pros
- Tabbed interface
- Support for saving passwords
- Built-in support for copying text from a web page. Note that, on Windows Mobile, you can only use text copied this way to copy into either the (non-native) address bar or in-page search bar (by pressing and holding the Action button) but not onto the system-level clipboard. Switching to using the native (system-level) text input field doesn’t help either (so that you can copy the text further – just like using my Opera Mini text copying service explained HERE). On the Blackberry (tested on the 8800), this doesn’t seem to be the case, where everything is copied to the system clipboard and made available to other apps like Notepad.
- Natively tabbed interface with explicit “Open in new tab” link context menu

Cons
- Still no support for Italic fonts. Again, Opera Mini folks, this would be really easy to implement – and, some of the alternative MIDlet-based Web browsers (see THIS for a full overview & really detailed comparison) already do this.
- Scrollbars have been removed, which makes it far harder to scroll down / up large amounts of text on a touchscreen phone without a hardware keypad (see #3)
- No automatic “History” any more – the tabbed interface substitute in earlier versions without having to explicitly bring up a link context menu and selecting “Open in new tab”. That is, the present solution is a bit more time-consuming for the seasoned Opera Mini user used to quickly switching between pages in the History tab, particularly on a phone with a hardware keypad (#5).
- No support for the native text input field (which would make it possible to copy from Web pages too) on BlackBerry (at least the 8800), unlike on Windows Mobile. There’s a “Disable inline text entry” setting under Advanced in Settings but it only seems to have effect on Windows Mobile.
- Major problems on the BlackBerry (at least the non-touchscreen-enabled 8800): I just couldn’t get rid of the “Find text in current page” text input field without removing the battery (simply initiating a power off with the hardware switch / the Power off menu item wasn’t sufficient)
- Doesn’t work on low-resolution, earlier or cheaper phones (176*220 Windows Mobile Standard / MS Smartphone phones or 176*208 older Nokia s60 phones, for example) with the native resolution less than QVGA (320*240). The reason for this is that it can’t render all its GUI components on screens this small. That is, if you’re a WinMo user sticking with a touchscreen-less, non-QVGA (that is, 176*220) MS Smartphone, don’t even bother – stick with Opera Mini 4. This wasn’t the case with the previous versions.

All in all, the new version shows a lot of promise but definitely has its share of problems on both Windows Mobile and BlackBerry. Fortunately, it nicely co-exists with earlier versions so you don’t have much to lose if you do give it a try.

2. The company, Torch Mobile, has been acquired by RIM – no Iris browsers for Windows Mobile any more

A lot of Windows Mobile folks love the Iris browser. (Not me, as I find its text reflowing capabilities far worse than those of Opera Mobile and Opera Mini, both running just great under Windows Mobile. I, most of the time, used the latter to browse the Web before switching to the iPhone.) A very bad piece of news for them is the complete termination of the Windows Mobile version.

Also see the user comments (including mine) HERE for more info.

3. Fennec 1.0b3 released


Fennec is the official Windows Mobile port of the renowned Firefox / Mozilla Web browser.

I’ve thoroughly tested it on my iPAQ 210 having 128 Mbytes of RAM (it’s stated it doesn’t work on 64M ones) and found it useless. Yes, it has a nice, tabbed interface and some goodies. Still, it seems it’s as bad as Minimo (the previous attempt at porting the browser to WinMo) was, even at version 0.2. For the time being, I don’t think you should bother.

Note that the MsMobile folks were pretty happy with the new version. Also see the user comments HERE - they are less than enthusiastic.

 

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