Opera Mini 4.1 was released today. While I was poking around on OperaMini.com looking for a feature list and some cool imagagry for a post about the release I noticed something interesting. The OperaMini.com homepage has this statement:
"The service is not available to Verizon Wireless subscribers (other than BlackBerry users) yet. Please subscribe for an email notification when we have a version available for Verizon customers. Thanks for your patience!"
There aren't any alternate browsers available for Verizon phones either. Verizon doesn't install a Java ME runtime, using Qualcom's BREW platform application instead. There are a few after market BREW browsers, Novarra has one called nWeb and Opera has developed an Opera Mini BREW version. The problem is that BREW is a locked down, carrier centric, anti-user platform. BREW content carries DRM locking it to a specific handset. The only way for a user to install a BREW game or application is from the carrier's portal. So even though there is a BREW version of Opera Mini there is no way a user can get it on their phone unless Verizon makes it available through their "Get It Now" portal.
It would make sense for Verizon to offer Opera Mini to their customers. The iPhone has made mobile full web browsing fashionable and the trend is toward full web browsers on all phones. ATT and T-Mobile already have feature phones with Opera Mobile and NetFront. Verizon needs an affordable full web browser that can run on the BREW platform in order to remain competitive. There aren't many choices. Verizon's Voyager iPhone clone comes with a pretty good Teleca full web browser but Teleca has gotten out of the mobile browser business. I used nWeb on Amp'd quite a bit and it was vastly inferior to Opera Mini, slow, no CSS support and many pages failed to load.
Unfortunately, Opera Mini probably won't be free for Verizon customers. There are few if any free BREW applications. Qualcom and Verizon both charge developers steep certification fees before even allowing an app on the portal and than take a big chunk of an app's price as a sales commission. Of course, Verizon could give Opera Mini away but that would be a break from their current model of not having any free downloadable content. Opera Mini is certainly worth paying for, let's hope Verizon makes it available soon for a small one time fee and not on one of those horrid pay monthly subscription deals.
Oh, and about the release of Opera Mini for Java ME. It's definitely worth downloading
April's Version 4.1 Beta included some neat features:
- The servers were upgraded to make pages load up to 50% faster
- Search for text within pages
- URL completion based on your bookmarks and browsing history,
- Download and upload files including photos and mail attachments
- Save pages for offline viewing.
- Signed versions to eliminate security nag screens
Today's 4.1 Final release didn't add any major new features compared to the 4.1 but it does include over 150 bug fixes many of which enable features that were broken on specific phones. A few examples:
- Blackberries with WiFi support can now surf the web with Opera Mini using the WiFi connection.
- Landscape Mode plus Downloading and Saving Pages now work on Sprint Samsung A900 and A920 phones.
- Find in page works on the Bookmarks screen on all phones.