Opera Mobile 9.5 to Elevate Smartphones into MID territory?

Updated on 19 May 2008 by

I just blogged that 88% of my mobile device usage is with a browser. I dare say that if I had a device that was fast enough, had a good enough touchscreen and offered a real, http-based client browser then i’d be happy. Indeed, my own ideal device specifications from Feb 2006 run along those lines with the definition being open to any processing platform as long as it delivers a quality Internet experience.

This is the reason that I’m very interested in seeing how good Opera Mobile 9.5 is on the ARM Smartphone platforms. If it’s good enough its going to elevate big-screen smartphones into devices that I’d consider alongside an Intel MID. Take the iPaq 210/214 for example. Its only got a VGA touchscreen and no 3G but with Opera Mobile 9.5 it really could satisfy a lot of peoples mobile Internet requirements for a Nokia N810-beating price.

Matt Miller of ‘The Mobile Gadgeteer’ says Opera 9.5 is the ‘Best mobile browser I’ve ever used.’ and that it ‘provides more functionality than the rather revolutionary Apple iPhone browser.’ I say that this browser will make many people think twice about buying a MID because it not only looks and reacts well but its got some very nice advanced features. But there are clearly limitations. Google Docs didn’t work in Matts test which, although you may not use Google docs, should be a concern if you depend on complex sites like Meebo, iGoogle, Facebook etc. Flash-Lite is included which is good but how are other media types presented and supported? How fast can it render the full-fat Google Reader webpage? I know it takes a low-power PC about 15 seconds to render my Google Reader page. Any smartphone on the market today is going to have trouble doing that in under 25 seconds.

[Video after the break…]

Putting it all into perspective, I think this is fantastic progress for mobile Internet users and may encourage OEMS to think more about the mobile Internet in their Windows Mobile device designs by including faster processors and bigger screens but for a real mobile Internet experience there shouldn’t be any compromises or limitations in the browser and any knowledge of such limitations is going to be a concern, especially if your business work depends on it. That’s why I still use a PC-based mobile device when I’m on the go.

 

Read Matts review of the Opera Mobile 9.5 browser.

Via jkOnTheRun

46 Comments For This Post

  1. Marc says:

    Opera 9.5 is fantastic on the VGA HTC x7500 so much so that I am not in as much hurry for a mid now. It’s almost iPhone like with the advantage of a bigger screen.

    Completely blows away the browsers n the Nokia N8x0 series in terms of speed and usability.

    But the Nokia browser has greater flash compatibility and as you point out the Google apps is an issue.

    For my mobile browsing it is close to perfect. But it isn’t going to pass all your tests Steve to make it any use to you…

  2. alese says:

    I have Opera 9.5 on my HTC P3600 phone. The device is only qVGA so the experience is not that good, and the browser is not all that stable yet (beta).
    But on the other hand it’s the best browser I have tried on a smartphone, works OK with Google Reader and GMail but unfortunately doesn’t really work with iGoogle.
    So when I get VGA phone (HTC Diamond or SE Experia) and the final version of Opera is released, it’s going to be really nice setup for browsing on the go, but when I’ll need some “real” browsing my Everun will still have to take over…

  3. Tal says:

    I want to respectfully criticize this article please. I think that until MIDs will allow cellular connectivity, we are comparing apples to oranges. Smartphones have an OS and browsing capabilities but MIDs can’t be used as phones.
    As indicated in comments to past articles, I will personally consider a MID only when I can put aside my cellular device. Till then its a powerful smartphone or a standard cell phone and a UMPC.

  4. Will says:

    It looks Opera gave their developers an iPhone and said “COPY THIS”! Not a bad thing of course since the zoom-to-column and drag-to-scroll features in Mobile Safari are brilliant.

    Tadd Rosenfeld from MSMobiles was also at Mobius and received the updated Advantage. He also commented that the browsing experience on the Advantage with Opera 9.5 was brilliant and better than the iPhone.

    About the Nokia ITs, the N8x00 has a slower CPU (400 vs 624 MHz) and the new browser in OS2008 is slower than the old Opera-based browser in OS2007. Unless Nokia does something drastic in the next IT (with their beta-quality OS), Intel Moblin-based MIDs will obliterate them from the already niche-market.

    Tal, the argument for MIDs is that it is too big to be carried around or used like a phone. Can you imagine carrying around a MID/phone with a 5″ screen?!

  5. Stephen Feger says:

    It’s tough to say where all of this is headed. I haven’t used Opera 9.5 yet (Still using 8.5), but I have been using Skyfire. Without a doubt, browsing is getting a very real improvement in the not too distant future from several vendors on the Windows Mobile front and this is a very good thing.

    But I do think that when people finally start actually using these newer browsers, the next questions will become…. “ok, now what?” Where’s the content? What is “useful” content on a 2.5″ – 3.5″ screen? It’s actually going to get interesting because the new browsers will have some very nice functionality and we’ll have to see how the web development community acts. With Apple, it’s not tough. There’s only one browser. Develop for it and you’re there. But for Windows Mobile, do we go for the weak mobile IE, or Opera 9.5 (which you have to pay for) or Skyfire (which you also have to pay for)?

    Plus, if you’re developing for something like Skyfire, you’re developing for a full webpage, because Skyfire doesn’t render a mobile page (why would it… it’s trying to show you a desktop view of things). Ironically, it’s a weakness AND a strength.

    This is what will hurt the Windows Mobile market because no one needs to format for three browser types. We’ve already played that game on the desktop.

    Now you consider the MID. It comes onto the market and says “I’m a desktop. I render pages like a desktop.” That’s pretty good. It certainly simplifies the development process for content. But will the content actually display properly on a MID? No one knows yet, it’s simply too soon to say.

    So who will win? Apple. They will have so many eyeballs looking through one lens (Safari) that content creators will continue to flock to it and develop pages specifically engineered for those devices. It’s already happening with the current iPhone. It will only accelerate.

    The Windows Mobile market is still weak and fragmented and the MID market still doesn’t exist.

    “Where’s the mobile content” will be the second half of this question. But it’s a really, really important question…

  6. zak says:

    @will

    “It looks Opera gave their developers an iPhone and said “COPY THIS”! Not a bad thing of course since the zoom-to-column and drag-to-scroll features in Mobile Safari are brilliant.”

    its not fair to say that. the iphone was released last year but opera had those same features on the browser they made for the wii, and that was released 2 years ago

  7. turn.self.off says:

    with these kinds of development, its way overdue that one basically sits down and drop the current browser identification system.

    instead, one should create one that basically tells the server what capabilities the browser in question have, so that it can serve it with content the browser can digest.

    how much screen space on a average page is wasted on large ads and similar that have no business on a small mobile screen?

  8. Tal says:

    Concerning the size of the MID as a phone, I think that the magical formula is to take the biggest size device which can still be considered as a pocket device, and use it for browsing as well as cellular usages. 4.8″ screen is perfect and with an earphone you can get the required effect of a phone.

    Tal

  9. Tal says:

    Will, adding to my previous answer about your question: “Can you imagine carrying around a MID/phone with a 5″ screen?!” … I think that one of the key points in MIDs vs. other devices like traditional UMPCs is that they are pocket size and can be carried anywhere. The problem is holding them as phone while talking rather than carrying them easily. An earphone will be a compromise for being on the go with only one device.

  10. Marc says:

    I want a portable device big enough to browse properly but small enough to not be annoying. A 5″ MID/Nokia IT is ideal and I’m happy to carry that about a lot of the time.

    Sure you can get rid of the stupid looking factor with a bluetooth headset (and a have a mini bluetooth phone like device that came with my HTC Athena) but I still don’t want my MID to be my phone.

    I just don’t want it to be my phone as I’m not happy to carry it to the pub or out for dinner etc. Then I want a nice small phone. In my case an iPhone, which can happily deal with any internet issues away from my main device.

  11. Tal says:

    We are now getting to subjective use-cases and preferences. I would prefer one device over two, and a MID in a restaurant is something I would care to try very much ;)

  12. voidcoder says:

    We are returning again and again to the same topic. You guys can’t have both things in a single package because there no MIDs, UMPCs or whatever capable of sleeping in standby for long enough waiting for the incoming calls. Not even close to the phones. Battery life is the bottleneck. The only devices which can do are the Ugly Sofa and Shift. Well Shift has no voice caps but using its concept with a separate WM or whatever driven ARM platform this could be easily added.

  13. zak says:

    mids just cant be phones yet. i would nevr ever put a mid in my shorts , it just wouldnt look right.

  14. tal says:

    voidcoder, please look at this thing: http://www.modumobile.com/
    I don’t believe this must be the case.

  15. admin says:

    Voicoder.
    There are some virtualisation experiments going on with MIDs. I saw a demo at Cebit where the main MID shut down but a second OS was kept running to handle incoming voice. By doing that you can shut down screen, graphics, wifi, bt etc etc leaving a tiny standby power. I dare say you could get a MID to work in standby all day using this technique.

    You could also fit a small voice-capable ARM-based board inside a MID in a similar way to the HTC Shift.

    HTC are working on a voice-capable MID phone too so there’s some hope for the ultra-converged fans.

    Steve.

  16. turn.self.off says:

    in other words, do something similar to what the htc shift do?

    makes sense, as most likely the wwan connection runs a arm chip anyways.

    just make the main os hibernate and things can be connected for quite a while.

  17. voidcoder says:

    Steve@

    If it only was the CPU which you need to place into
    some lower power state… The design and software must
    be smart enough to control power for all peripherals,
    something clashing with the x86 architecture in
    general.

    I think Shift like solution with a built in low power
    ARM based phone module has more chances.

    Anyway I’m not a MID fan and don’t see the advantage
    of those devices. I agree that, like someone posted in
    the forum, even if the MIDs are not initially DOA,
    they are likely interim devices and will probably die
    once the x86 or 1GHz+ ARM etc smartphones will come out to replace ’em. Will you buy a separate device for
    surfing/pmp if you phone already does it all? I think
    in a year or two MIDs, PMPs and of its ilk are all RIP :)

  18. Will says:

    Stephen Feger made a good comment about content and I think MIDs are trying to address that by allowing access to “desktop-grade” content to a more mobile, instant-on device.

    WAP died because you had to develop content specifically for it. In theory, you don’t have to do that for MIDs.

    Having seen just video of the Opera browser on the Wii, there are some similarities with the iPhone zooming and dragging functionality but Safari Mobile does it significantly better. The Wii browser does not have the zoom-to-column feature which I find invaluable.

    4.8″ phone?! I personally think the iPhone is already slightly too big. A 3.2″ widescreen is probably the biggest device I would like to carry around as a phone. Having to carry earphones all the time to make a phone call isn’t acceptable to me either. If it doesn’t fit in my pocket comfortably, forget it. I’m not a man-bag person! :)

    BTW, I’ve used the Flipstart in a restaurant and I have gotten rather bizzare looks! Of course if it wasn’t such a fugly device….

    What would I love to see… the Sony X1 or HTC Diamond with a faster CPU (600 MHz Snapdragon or Cortex-A8) with Opera 9.5 and full Javascript and Flash functionality.

  19. admin says:

    @voicoder. You said: “Will you buy a separate device for
    surfing/pmp if you phone already does it all?”

    Yes, because I’m not someone that wants a single device solution. A small QVGA 2″ smartphone + MID/PMP is probably the best combination for me.

    MIDs will definately cross the smartphone boundary soon. HTC are already working on a voice-capable Atom-based MID so if that satisfies the need for a single converged device is it an Atom-base MID or a smartphone?!!!

    A MID will be whatever the OEM wants it to be at the end of the day. If they want to buy Atom , Intel will sell it. Only Centrino Atom devices have any fixed definition.

    Steve.

  20. voidcoder says:

    I’m not talking about the tech geeks, I mean the average user. Also why 2″? Why not 3.5″ iPhone like thing or a bit bigger? For me 3.5″ or 5″ doesn’t make any difference in terms of surfing as both are below an acceptable level. A quick email, a forum post etc are no prob but a “Full Internet Experience” for me means at least no horz scrolling on every page, i.e. staring with 7/8″.

    Just up the performance a bit on your 3.5″ phone and you erase the MID border. IMHO.

  21. turn.self.off says:

    btw, that entry i made up there was done via my N800 while having some downtime at a cafe today ;)

  22. admin says:

    @Voicoder.
    For me, 800×480 is the minimum res for acceptable internet use. I do not want to be wasting time zooming in, out and panning around in just be be able to read a page so if you take a pixels per inch figure of 220 maximum, you are at 3.6×2.1 inches screen which has a diagonal of over 4 inches.
    Add the processing power to return a top quality (sub 15-seconds per page load, desktop engine) experience and a top-end PMP experience, add wifi, BT, gps, AF cam, touchscreen and include a battery on that will bring you 3 hours of online battery usage and you end up with a device that’s too big for 24/7 usage. IMO anyway.

    For the man on the street, there are other choices, yes I agree. MID’s were never meant for them. MIDs are currently devices for people wanting an uncompromised mobile internet experience and PMP experience but as I said before, the voice-enabled smartphone MIDS are on their way and will appeal to people like yourself. I dont think anyone is in a position to be able to predict a MID failure yet.

    Steve.

  23. admin says:

    I should have said ‘MIDs are not currently for the man on the street.’ They will be though in the future!
    (IMHO!)
    Steve

  24. voidcoder says:

    yep, it is all very subjective. One may be happy with 800×480 and others my not. For me 800×480 is not far different from 640×480, something what I had on my ages old LOOX N560 3.5″ 620Mhz a couple of years ago. It still does youtube no problem btw.

    Apart the screen/resolution thing, yet another (again, subjective) complain I have is the pocketability. MIDs are far not that pocketable devices and if I still need a bag for carrying it around it doesn’t make a big difference for me to carry 5″ MID or 7″ UMPC. The last at least can give me the “full Internet experience” in my own interpretation and is much more productive device.

    Anyway Steve, your site is *umpc*potal and not *mid*portal, you are off topic! :)

  25. Mike Cane says:

    Those Opera demos — JKOTR did the first one — really make me drool. I’ve even gone so far as to read up on the Advantage because of it. No new Advantage for us Americans, unless we want to pay over $1,300!

    Ach, why can’t HTC spit out a lower-priced one. Even Palm could do that, since they now do WinMob devices.

    And yet, I still hope for a 5″-screen iPod Air from Apple to end all this confusion. Or just let the iPhone work with a Bluetooth keyboard and I’d be mostly happy.

  26. alese says:

    Just for a little real life experience…

    I was checking out the whole conversation via my Smartphone and when I saw the link posted by tal in the thread (http://www.modumobile.com/) I naturally wanted to check it out, so I clicked it.

    Well, my Opera 9.5 beautifully rendered nothing. OK so it’s a Flash site, but I only realized that when I tried the link in “real” browser.
    Bottom line – Opera 9.5 is good, but like every other mobile browser (including Safari) it just doesn’t give you the “full internet experience” and then it depends on how much compromise you are wiling to take…

  27. turn.self.off says:

    that full internet experience is a very subjective thing.

    i find myself surfing using the opera mini with images off most of the time, as they give me little extra compared to the text. and if there is a image i want to look at i can load that specifically.

    as for flash, i would love to see it vanish ones and for all. but adobes recent loosening if its distributive and other requirements (one can actually implement ones own interpreter now without having to worry about a lawsuit) may help somewhat.

    all in all, for me the internet is already at full experience when i use opera mini, or my N800. but then i have not handed my life over to google and its services, yet…

  28. Marc says:

    Mike Cane – Can’t you get the 7500 or 7501 in the US? I’ve seen people selling them on xda-developers.com for less than $700 used. The 7510 really doesn’t offer anything over these, in fact I’d probably consider it inferior!

    Certainly worth considering the eBay/used route.

    Just tried the latest build of 9.5 (781) on my mine and it’s getting even better. :)

    Still for now we’re going to suffer that a lot of the internet uses flash and this just doesn’t cut it there yet.

  29. Marc says:

    turn.self.off – I pretty much agree. The sites I use daily work wonderfully well in Opera, but I still get the disappointment that even those will embedded the odd flash video (like here, the BBC and in forums) meaning I can’t keep up with everything I want too.

    Flash is too far gone to be killed, and there is always something else trying to muscle in if it did (like silverlight), so the hope has to be that Adobe embraces mobile technology rather than continues to fight against it.

  30. turn.self.off says:

    true, but what is flash really used for?

    that page in question could just as well have served its info using html and similar, so why do it all in flash? to make things look more “slick”?

    and media streams? can someone say html5?

    then whats left? games?

  31. Marc says:

    Oh, I agree.

    But it’s there and we can’t avoid it.

  32. turn.self.off says:

    i guess one cant avoid it, but one sure can ignore it ;)

  33. Matthew Miller (aka palmsolo) says:

    Mike Cane,

    My full review of the new Advantage 7510 should be going up late tonight/tomorrow morning and as you will read I think you may want to consider the 7500/7501 and then put the Athena Project 4 ROM on there to get a device that may be better than the 7510 in many respects (like Marc above recommended).

    I personally could care less about Flash on a mobile device and just don’t visit sites that use only Flash content and really find it to be a non-issue.

  34. Marc says:

    Look forward to your review Matthew, please post a link here to it.

    I’m pleased to hear the comment about a 7500 over a 7510. I’d hate to feel like I needed a new device so soon after picking up a ‘cheap’ 7500! I mainly use it as a tablet, so if there are any keyboard advantages these are lost on me, and everything else seems a step back or no update at all apart from the ROM and AP4 takes that ROM and makes it better!

    Apparently the AP5 ROM is due very soon too now which can only be good news.

  35. Mike Cane says:

    @Marc: The thing about the 7500/7501 is the MicroDrive. From what I’ve been reading, it’s caused the same amount of trouble as the MicroDrive in the Palm LifeDrive. Has anyone anywhere swapped out that HD for a CF card? (I have a LifeDrive with CF.) I know VuFlo would be gone, but it’s not in the 7510 anyway.

    @Matthew: I look forward to that review!

    Cooked ROMs?! From where? From what I understand, MS sent a C&D to xda-devs. The ROMs are now hidden somewhere.

    BTW, I’ve also read up on the VGAed iPaq 412 (is that the right number? The 4″ screen recently out). Seems to be a dog with many problems.

  36. Marc says:

    Didn’t the 7501 replace the Microdrive with solid state?

    Anyway, not heard any horror stories, but then I’ve not looked hard and mine seems ok!

    Xda devs obviously found a way around the ROMs issue, the Kaiser and Athena (Advantage/x7500 etc) is quite obvious in sticky threads in the appropriate forums!

  37. Marc says:

    The Athena Project ROM, complete with Opera 9.5 (but there is a newer build to download now) can be found here:

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=387409

    ;)

  38. Matthew Miller (aka palmsolo) says:

    @Mike Cane: I am not sure how they get by with doing it now, but the Athena Project 4 ROM is there and available in all its glory. (Shhh, I upgraded my Advantage 7501 and IMHO it is better than the 7510 due in large part to the cool auto-rotate feature.)

    The only issue I have seen in over 9 months of use was 2 times it “disappeared”. A soft reset fixed it and it may have been one of the 30+ 3rd party apps that caused the issue. I have never had heat issues or anything else with the Microdrive and if they didn’t tell me it was a hard drive I would have thought it was flash because it doesn’t even make noise or vibrate.

    The 7510 does have 16GB of flash, which is quite a bonus too. The loss of 3 hardware buttons on the device though is a real bummer.

  39. chippy says:

    @Matt Miller
    “30+ 3rd party apps”

    For a device to crash just twice in 9 months with that amount of 3d party software on it is pretty good!

    Steve

  40. Mike Cane says:

    ARGH! I don’t know why I am still listening to you Advantage fanatics! I’m certain the Asus e900 would do me well:
    http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/05/21/the-asus-e900-crushes-the-htc-advantage/

    Still, I d/led that ROM. Wait, did I type that?

    Anyway, given that Matt Miller is using a 75xx & Celio Redfly for more bulk, less capability, and more cost than an e900, I’d like to see him address that!

  41. Marc says:

    Mike, how can you compare the two? The eee900 is a small laptop and the 7500 is essentially a MID. It depends what you want and how you are going to use it.

    Sure the 7500 costs more (although used they are ‘cheap’) but over the 900 it has a GPS, a touchscreen, is much smaller, has 3G/HSDPA built in (and can be used as a phone) and it has dual cameras and bluetooth which I think the 900 lacks too.

    The 900 gives you the full PC experience, it has a proper keyboard, XP and a big screen. Whilst it is very portable, you are still going to need extra hardware to use it away from wifi if you need connectivity.

    Oh, and for 7500 users, the beta of the next ROM AP5 is now available… :)

  42. Mike Cane says:

    I can compare the two because of my personal use, so the apples vs oranges works for *me*. My bombastic headline is to defy James Kendrick and his continuing taunting of me.

    I have a set of apps that I use for blogging. The e900 would let me use the same apps on the go.

    I’m not sure if similar apps exist for WinMob. It seems there’s no real blogging software other than SixApart’s customized one for its TypePad blog platform.

    I need to crop, rescale photos before uploading to my blog.

    Then there are Firefox plug-ins. Yeesh.

    BTW, the US version of the 75xx only has the camera on the back. A minor point.

  43. Matthew Miller (aka palmsolo) says:

    Mike,

    I am not sure you can compaethw two since the Advantage is more of a companon device witha limted OS. That said, I already have a full PC and don’t want another one. I don’t think I am a good person to look for when it comes to finding a single device since I like to ply with everything and have more than I need.

    I bought the REDFLY because I looked at it as a way to have a large keyboard and display that was usble with any Windows Mobile device with virtually unlimkted upgrade options and a longer life than any other mobile device I have because it just progresses right long with the connected platform.

    I actually do not realy carry both the Advantage and REDFLY togwether unless I know I have heavy surfing to do nd have a light bag or I am taking a flight. The Advantage is invaluable with thew wireless connectivty, large display, GPS, and more. Like I said in my review, if I was going to purchase one riht now I would go for the 7500 and “upgrade” it.

    BTW, I am writing this on the 7510 on the train :)

  44. Marc says:

    Mike, sounds like the 75xx is not for you. I don’t think I could consider it a serious work device. It keeps me connected on the go, gives me nice extras like GPS and is a pretty good PMP and is great for bedroom/couch surfing, but I wouldn’t personally want to start editing documents and photos on it.

    Obviously that still leaves you a billion things to choose from. If price is an issue then the eee type laptops are the way forward, if a UMPC is a possibility then something like a Q1U Permium with the organiser kit would be great.

    Or maybe checkout the classifieds, there is a nice Fujitsu going cheap…

  45. Mike Cane says:

    >>>I bought the REDFLY because I looked at it as a way to have a large keyboard and display that was usble with any Windows Mobile device with virtually unlimkted upgrade options and a longer life than any other mobile device I have because it just progresses right long with the connected platform.

    Well DUH! on me for not thinking of it outside of your using it just with the HTC! I hope Celio stays in business and gives you drivers as new WM devices appear!

    >>>I actually do not realy carry both the Advantage and REDFLY togwether unless I know I have heavy surfing to do nd have a light bag or I am taking a flight.

    Yeah, comprehensive portability vs. ad-hoc capability, or an EeePC vs HTC. I think I need the first, first!

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