Opera Mobile 9.5 beta Web browser makes debut

Beta runs on high-end Windows phones. Symbian, other devices to follow.

Opera Software Thursday launched the public beta test Opera Mobile 9.5, its full-blown, native Web browser for smartphones.

The beta code runs only on high-end Windows mobile phones, but the final release will also run on Symbian devices, with others to be added in the future..

The beta version first displays the entire Web page of a given site on the handheld screen. Users then pan and zoom to pick out the specific elements they're interested in. Details of the 9.5 release were announced earlier this year by the software vendor.

This default behavior is taken from the companion Opera Mini browser, which is a client-server browser designed for lower-end mobile phones. Earlier this year, Opera announced that Mini would be supported on the Google/Open Handset Alliance Android Linux platform for mobile phones.

No release date has been set for the final production version of the 9.5 browser, according to an Opera spokesman.

The user interface for Opera Mobile has been reworked in 9.5 (an example is here.) to create a cleaner, simpler display that's easier for users to navigate, according to the company. Also new is the ability to save Web pages or images to your phone with just one click.

The 9.5 version has also been further optimized compared with the previous 8.65 release, so users have a faster browsing experience, which Opera says is 1.5 to 2 times faster than Microsoft Internet Explorer Mobile.

Developers can use the newly released Opera Dragonfly toolset to set up remote debugging and troubleshooting. With Dragonfly on both a smartphone and a PC, the PC developer, through the Opera desktop 9.5, can remotely debug Web content on the handset including JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets and the Document Object Model.

Opera Mobile, which emerged for Web surfing in 2000, is facing an upswell of potential rivals. Bitstream introduced the ThunderHawk mobile browser for the mass market earlier this year, and Mozilla is about to release an alpha version of Firefox for mobile this summer. Another start-up, Skyfire, is developing a client-server mobile browser based on the Firefox desktop browser.

You can download the beta version of Opera Mobile 9.5 here.

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John Cox

Network World

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