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Windows Mobile Devices and Opera

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 8/29/2008

Your Windows Mobile device came with Internet Explorer Mobile, just like your Windows computer came with Internet Explorer. Just like there are other browsers out there for your desktop that might be a better choice than the default browser, there are browsers out there for Windows Mobile too.

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    Introducing Opera Mobile

    Opera Mobile 8.65 only works on Windows Mobile or Symbian (smartphones that don't run Windows Mobile usually run Symbian). Depending on your device manufacturer (or cell phone company), your phone may have come with Opera Mobile 8.65 already installed. So, is it good? That's a fair question and I found myself comparing it too much to my tricked out plug-in loaded Firefox installation with high-speed cable modem connection. Obviously, that isn't a realistic comparison. Instead let's take a look at Opera Mobile 8.65 versus the standard default install of Internet Explorer Mobile.

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    Is It Good?

    Opera loads much slower than IE. After selecting Opera, the loading icon comes up not once, but twice. By the time it shows up on my screen IE has long been finished. But, where it counts is in speed to load websites. Actually, it is fairly similar for the few websites I checked. Sure, I could pull out a stopwatch, but does it really matter if one loads a page in 8.4 seconds and the other in 9.3 seconds? My life isn't about 1 or 2 seconds. I hope yours isn't either. What I did notice that is interesting, is that both browsers load pages significantly faster in One Column mode than in Desktop mode- sometimes as much as twice as fast. IMDB.com comes up in 20+ seconds in Desktop mode, but around 10 seconds in One Column mode. So, there's a little tip from me to you.

    But, what makes Opera Mobile the clear winner in the comparison with IE Mobile is that I actually CAN compare some of the features to my Firefox desktop browser. One of my biggest withdrawals was over tabbed browsing. I can't go five minutes on the Internet without at least two tabs open. If I'm doing anything other than reading Fark.com then it's going to be five tabs in no time. After playing around with IE Mobile, I figured it just probably wasn't feasible on a Windows Mobile device. WRONG!

    Opera Mobile has tabbed browsing. Not next version, not next year, now. Real live tabbed browsing. Truth is, it is MORE important on your Windows Mobile device with a tiny screen. Between accidentally clicking the wrong link on a tiny page (the one above or below the one you want are particularly easy to hit) and looking at a mini-version of a webpage and wondering whether that link is the one you really want or not, having tabs to help you go back and forth into the off the beaten path roads of the Internet is a huge deal.

    Opera Mobile also has more viewing options. IE Mobile 6.0 comes with just three choices, one column, desktop, and fit to screen. Opera comes with those, plus a variable zoom. I can't tell you on how many websites the change between 90% and 100% made the difference between being able to figure out a website well enough to use it, and just emailing yourself the URL so you could check it when you got home. Opera also has a quick and easy way to switch to Landscape view. Not to switch the whole phone to landscape-just the browser. If you want landscape in IE Mobile, you have to get out of the browser, go to your device settings, and change those to landscape. Opera has a menu option. Even better, Opera has a Full Screen mode that gets maximum use of your screen real estate.

    Even where Opera and IE are the same, Opera is better. In IE, dragging my finger across the screen is a nanometer difference between moving the screen one screen width or length, and scrolling the entire length of the website without stopping. With Opera, the webpage moves as much as my finger does. If I pull the page 1/2 the width of the screen, the underlying page moves 1/2 the width of the screen. IE is so hit or miss that I don't even drag webpages. I delicately use my thumb on the scroll bars or just use the directional keys.

    Last but not least, Opera has my newly favorite feature for every Windows Mobile application, no matter what it does. A full exit option in the menu. Windows Mobile devices aren't like your desktop PC, where the cost of hardware has come down far enough to outstrip the ever increasing bloatware that fills our systems. My Zimbra email client uses over 100MB of RAM. It's EMAIL! What is it doing with all of that RAM? But, on a Windows Mobile device, your resources are in short supply. Just a few open programs can slow it to a crawl or freeze it up all together. I've gotten in the habit of clicking the Shutdown All icon in task manager before putting the device back in my pocket. Under the Opera menu is a choice for Exit, and when you click it, it actually exits- no need to shut it down in task manager.

    Yes, I know I can do the "Long Press" on the X to close a program, but it never works as well as it should. Am I holding it down or is my finger missing it a little bit? Do I just wait longer because it hasn't actually been five seconds yet, or do I try and push it again? Whatever. Let me choose Exit as a choice and be done with it.

    Three Cheers for Opera Mobile 8.65

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    Images

    TABS!It has TABS!Full Screen ModeZoom Modes
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    Cons

    It costs money. Yes, in this day and age, a price tag on a browser seems a little backwards, but Opera Mobile is not free. For me, it came with my Sprint HTC Touch ROM upgrade, so yeah team! But, if it didn't come on your phone, you'll need to shell out something like $24. However, if you want to play, there is a beta Opera Mobile out right now for free. Opera Mobile 9.5, baby! Guess what I'm going to go download now?