Opera Mobile comes to the desktop
Test code without needing a phone
Opera has released a desktop version of its mobile browser, so developers can see how their pages will look on a mobile phone and even create a widget or two.
Opera Mobile now runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux desktops, and renders pages just as they would appear on a mobile phone running the diminutive browser. What's more, Opera’s widget platform now also comes in a desktop version.
No one can agree quite what a "widget" is, but to Opera it’s a small application created using AJAX with a few additional APIs (which aren’t yet approved by the W3C). Widgets should be cross-platform, and Opera is hoping to licence its Mobile Widget platform to handset manufacturers just like its browser.
Both applications work well enough; users can change the resolution by resizing the window, and see how effective Opera’s automatic zoom really is. Comparing the experience to a real handset reveals the experience isn't identical. Font sizes didn’t quite match so the zoom level isn't the same, but that would only matter if you were doing pixel-specific layouts.
Opera Mobile, and Mini (which is available for testing as a Java Applet), offer what is arguably the best mobile browsing experience, and cope well with a wide variety of content. There is also Opera Turbo, a service that interprets and encodes web pages for faster transmission.
But while the Java-based Opera Mini enhances a range of handsets, including the iPhone, the "Opera Mobile" version runs natively on Windows Mobile and Symbian handsets. And with Windows Mobile already on the gallows steps the future of Opera Mobile now depends entirely on Symbian.
That may be no bad thing in the long term, but for testing Opera Mini is probably the more important platform.
So this is really about widgets and providing a desktop development for them, which is exactly what Opera has done. The widget client integrates with Opera’s Dragonfly development environment for creating and debugging widgets.
Which is what Opera needs if handset vendors are going to licence its widget platform, and bring in some much-needed revenue. ®
Small Screen Rendering mode
How does this differ from the desktop SSR mode, which has been available for the best part of a decade? Or is this just a marketing gimmick to boost awareness of the feature amongst web designers? Perhaps some people think they need to be using a special tool to test their mobile pages and don't have faith in SSR mode on a desktop version?
I can't see this new version being any different because surely it's still subject to the same limitations. For example, different phones may have different fonts, and Mobile Opera being simulated on a desktop is probably going to use your desktop fonts or at best get bundled with one font of its own.
And as for widgets, you need to specify a width and height for them, so if you want to develop them on a desktop, surely you just set their sizes to those of phones?
I think Opera's 'Widget platform' thingy is already in Opera 10.5. Widgets can now be installed and removed from the Windows control panel rather than the Widgets panel of previous versions, thus presenting them to the user as proper applications rather than specialist HTML5 web pages.
Opera Mini is not just for less capable phones
Opera Mini is actually fine on high-end smartphones too.
The thing about Opera Mini is the 90% compression, which makes 3G connections (and slower) much faster. And a lot cheaper when you pay for your data.
So Opera can get significant market share with Opera Mini simply because most people are on slow, expensive mobile connections.
No Opera MINI is available for free on the Android Marketplace, the same as the iPhone Opera Mini.
Opera Mobile is a full blowen mobile browser that does LOCAL page rendering.