Lovers of Droid phones and tiny browsers with superfast load times can rejoice. The Opera Mini 5.1 browser for Android phones is out of beta and is now available as a general release.
You can download it in the Android Market, or directly from Opera. If you’ve been testing the previously released beta on your Android phone, you can upgrade to the final release within the app.
The newest version of Opera’s browser adds a pinch-to-zoom feature, but it’s not as elegant as what you’d expect if you’re used to iOS apps. A pinch only zooms you into a specific content well and out to the full page. Still, it’s useful enough to say goodbye to the crude magnifying glass zoom-in-and-out behaviors, which I certainly won’t miss.
The default image quality has also been upgraded to better match the higher-resolution screens of newer phones like the HTC EVO and the Droid X. Opera serves pages to Mini users through a network of web proxy servers, and the data arrives compressed. The method speeds up page loads (especially on slow or flaky data networks), but pages come through looking a little crunchy. This update improves the low-quality image issues.
Opera released its Mini browser for iPhone in April, and it was well-received. It definitely sped up the cellular browsing experience on the iPhone for most websites. But it’s still impossible to make Opera Mini your default browser on the iPhone, and Mobile Safari (with its smooth pinch-to-zoom) has Opera beat for more complex sites and pages that require more navigation than simple scrolling.
Opera Mini for Android can be set as your default browser, and the browser also gets a session restore feature for quick recovery after crashes. There’s also a full-screen mode that does away with the chrome and fills the tiny screen with pure gold web content.