The last 18 or so hours have been crazy with announcements in the mobile world. Opera Mini was approved for the iPhone, Nokia announced three new QWERTY phones at impressively low price points and there’s a new Bolt browser release.
I don’t think anyone expected that Apple would approve the Opera Mini iPhone app. But the app store rules are so vague and approval process so opaque that you can never predict what Apple will bless and what they won’t. Opera Mini does seem to fall under the prohibition that apps can’t duplicate existing iPhone functionality which was Apple’s excuse killing the Google Voice and Podcater apps. Plus Apple has never allowed any 3rd party browser that was more than just a different skin or user interface tweak on top of Safari’s WebKit engine. Hopefully the approval of Opera opens the door for Firefox, Bolt, Skyfire, UCWEB and others. Dare we dream of Chrome or IE on the iPhone?
I’m going to drop by the Apple Store later today and try to get a little hands on with Mini on the iPhone. I’m especially interested in seeing if two key features of Opera Mini on other smartphone platforms are supported: file upload/download and saving web pages for off-line reading. I’ll update this post when I know more.
Update: I got some hands with Opera Mini on an iPhone 3GS at the local Apple Store. I found it fast and glitch free. I tried quite a few pages and saw no rendering issues at all. Image quality seems as good as in Safari.
The user interface appears identical to the Java version of Opera Mini on touchscreen phones like the Nokia N97. As a long time Opera Mini user I felt right at home. It’s a nice UI but not particularly iPhone-like.
Opera Mini on the iPhone is able to save web pages and open saved pages, which is something Safari can’t do. Saving images on web pages works (they end up in the “Photos” app).
As with Safari, file upload web forms (input type=”file”) are disabled and there is no option to download and save documents other than images. Word, PDF and other document types that the iPhone supports can be viewed but not saved. If you switch from Opera Mini to another app (which closes Opera because the current iPhone doesn’t multitask), the next time you launch Opera it reloads the last page you viewed, something I wish it would do on other platforms.