Lately I’ve had the chance to use an iPhone 3G. As I’ve been considering purchasing the new 3G S, this has been a good opportunity to see if I like the thing, but what I think of the phone itself is a matter of another post – Today, let’s look at its browse and compare it to Opera Mobile, which is another excellent “desktop browser in your pocket”.
Web browsing is an important factor for me in a smartphone. If the browser is no good, or even if it is but doesn’t do something properly, it’s immediately detrimental to the value of the device in my opinion. Lucky for them, both of these browsers do a good job, but there are some small things nevertheless…
Opera Mobile’s latest versions are currently available for Windows Mobile based devices. Safari Mobile runs on iPhones and the Palm Pre. Possibly some others as well, but I haven’t a chance to see it on any other phones.
Both of the browsers render sites pretty much the same you see on desktop. Web 2.0 -type sites also work well on both.
Both also have useful features like bookmarks and the ability to have multiple pages open at once. However, Opera limits this to three due to memory constraints. Safari also limits this, but to a more generous 8.
I did not compare their performance much. Let’s just say they both seem to load pages fast enough. Opera does get a bonus due to their Turbo feature, which uses proxying through Opera’s servers to compress your content and in my experience makes a significant difference, even if you’re on a fast WiFi.
A feature that is missing from Safari is file uploading. This is something I have used on my Touch Diamond’s Opera Mobile, and I consider it somewhat important to have. On the iPhone there probably are apps that would allow you to upload things to sites like Evernote, but it’s still not a replacement for being able to upload to any website.
Both browsers also do zooming, but the way they handle zoomed pages somewhat differently.
When zoomed in, Safari does nothing. If the text is too wide to show up on the page when zoomed in, you’ll have to scroll. Opera on the other hand reflows the content, making any text fit on the screen. This makes the text much easier to read when you are zoomed in, but it may sometimes cause minor inconsistencies in the layout of pages. Despite this, I find Opera’s way of handling zoomed pages much better.
I haven’t found other things that I have needed in browsing from either phone, so they only have some small differences and minor issues. I’m not as familiar with Safari as I’m with Opera, so I can’t say for sure, but Opera is probably more configurable and contains more “hidden” features that may be of use. For example, desktop Opera has a content blocker, which does not at first appear to be available on Mobile. Actually, it’s just missing a UI – it’s all there, and if you copy the settings files for blocking things on the desktop to your mobile, the content blocker will function on your mobile phone.
Both of the browsers seem to like button icons that are incomprehensible at first. It’s not a big thing though, as none of the buttons will do any serious damage and you can just experiment to find out.
There is not much to compare here, as both the browsers work very similarily, by touching and sliding your finger around. The main difference comes in the way you zoom: In Opera, you zoom by doubletapping and you can’t choose the level of zoom. The zoom has always picked a good “close” zoom to be able to read the text, though, so this is not a big problem. Depending on the device, you may have a button like on the Touch Diamond which will allow you to control zoom precisely, but as said this depends on the device.
iPhone Safari zoom on the other hand works by doing the “pinch” gesture with two fingers. This may need some practice and is very tricky to do with just one hand, say if you’re carrying something on your other. It does also support doubletap zooming, but it doesn’t seem to work as well as on Opera Mobile, sometimes not zooming in the amount you’d like. When using with two hands, the pinch move is quite intuitive though.
The bottom line
It’s difficult to say which of these two is actually a better browser. They both will do the job well, but I think Opera will be a bit better option if you demand more from your browser. File uploading makes it more versatile and Opera Turbo speeds it up. Not to forget the upcoming Opera Link feature which syncs your bookmarks across devices, but that’s not available yet sadly.
Have you used either of these browsers? What do you think? Or maybe you’ve used a third one which is even better?