Why My Hatred for Opera Mini for iPhone is Not So Mini

mini5-iphone-submission When I heard Opera announce that they were submitting their app to the App Store, I was curious to see how this would turn out. Apple is notorious for rejecting apps that duplicate functionality of the iPhone. Google Voice got the boot, tethering apps got the boot, even Wi-Fi hotspot finders got the boot.

Opera was smart. They waited until the App Store debate was starting to turn popular opinion against Apple. Then, they announced very publicly that they were submitting the app. Clearly everyone would know right away if Apple rejected it. Opera has never been shy about standing up for their browser. Despite all this, I’m still surprised Apple let it through. Steve Jobs doesn’t have a history of caring about the opinions of critics. When Steve wants something, he usually gets it.

Well, all the hype aside, let’s get down to the business at hand. Tuesday afternoon I downloaded the app, eager to try it out. I’ve had a mixed relationship with Opera in the past. They were the first browser I ever tried that used mouse gestures. I used to love being able to sit back in my chair with just the mouse, and flip back and forth through sites. The problem was, a lot of the sites that I was flipping through didn’t render properly. Opera suffered from the same problems Firefox and Chrome had in their infancy, not all the sites were coded to work properly in those browsers. Opera seems to be on the frontline with new browser features (mouse gestures, standards compliance, media sharing), but in my opinion they’ve never had the complete package. There’s always been something just annoying enough to stop me from using it full time.

Once again, they’ve done some really great things, but driven me nuts along the way.

Before I even started to test out the speed, I wanted to have my bookmarks transferred over. If I was going to use this browser for longer than the afternoon, I’d like to have my favourites with me. What a disaster! There’s no way to import from Safari, which I get. I’m sure Apple would have squashed the app if it tried to tie into Safari. Ok, fine, I went to Opera’s site for options. Apparently if I install the desktop browser, Opera Link will let me sync my bookmarks with the mobile app. I proceeded to download and install the desktop app. I had to sign up for a My Opera account, and configure the desktop client. I exported my bookmarks from Chrome, and imported them into Opera. Once I was setup with Opera Link, I synced up my bookmarks with the cloud. Great! Now I can see them on the iPhone app.

Not so fast!

Nothing, not a single thing came across. After a quick browse through the forums, I found out that plenty of other people were having the same problem. Apparently bookmark sync isn’t working yet. There is a direct link I can go to, to see my bookmarks. A static page? Why would I want to use that?

The Final Straw

Since the bookmarks issue wasn’t going to resolve itself, I thought I’d just surf around and test the speed. The default home page is Opera’s Speed Dial, a home page with icons of your favourite shortcuts. Facebook was one of the sites, so I thought I’d see how quickly Facebook loaded. I tried to login 3 times before I was told that I was temporarily locked out of my account. It seems that since Opera sends the info back to its own servers, it looked like I was suddenly logging in from the US on a new browser. Facebook apparently thought this was suspicious, and promptly blocked access to my account.

Did it just block me out from Opera? Oh no, that would be far too simple. All of the 3rd party apps that I had authorized to work with Facebook were blocked. I had to go to facebook.com from my laptop. They first asked me to confirm that the activity from the Opera Mini browser was me. After I did that, I had to go into each and every 3rd party app (Hootsuite, TweetDeck, etc.) and re-authorize them with Facebook. What a pain!

A Ray of Hope

02-Tabs-NYT

At this point I was too frustrated to do much more with the app. I’d just spent a good 20-30 minutes setting up a mobile browser, and then another 30 going through and fixing Facebook. In the interest of not sounding like a bitter anti-Opera nut, I’ll offer a few positives. I browsed through a few other sites after my ordeal.

The browser is, without a doubt, really fast.

Pages loaded much faster than in Safari, and I didn’t have any problem with the content once it was loaded.

I really like the way they handle multiple tabs. 

You can flip through, close off, and open up new tabs very easily. I like their method more than the way Safari handles them. Finally, the Speed Dial feature is really nice (you can see it in the picture at the beginning of this post). If I was able to get my bookmarks in, or spent the time to import them all manually, having a handy homepage like this one adds even more speed to Opera’s already quick browsing.

Reality Sets In

This is a 1.0, and should be treated as such. I’m impressed they got the app through. I’m impressed by the speed, the Speed Dial, and the way they handle tabs. I can only hope that future releases address some of these issues. Bookmarks are just too big of a deal for me to ignore. I have no idea what happened with Facebook, and whether or not it would happen again if I went back there in Opera Mini. I didn’t have the time to risk it happening again. I will certainly keep an eye out for updates. If I hear that they have fixed a few things, I may give it another shot. Until that day, I’ll stick with my slower, more reliable Safari, with all my XMarks synced bookmarks at my disposal.

Have you tried out Opera Mini for the iPhone? Let me know what you think, and if you’ve had similar problems.