While there are some who acknowledge the innovations of Opera, and use the browser on a consistent basis, a great many more are drawn to the competitors to it. However, in the mobile market, for handheld devices, Opera Mini has really caught on, and is hugely popular. Version of the Opera Mini is getting another boost, as it will be featured on many handset by default, allowing quick and easy browsing in the so-called developing markets.
Vodafone is working with Opera Software to embed the company’s Mini 5 browser on 20 low-cost phones designed for emerging markets.
The phones and browser will first be rolled out in India, South Africa, Turkey, Tanzania and Egypt. Other markets are expected to follow in the near future, Vodafone said.
Most of the phones that will come with the browser embedded are Vodafone branded products, but there are also some devices from Samsung and LG, according to a Vodafone spokesman, who wasn’t able to provide more detail on the individual models.
Also, owners of more than 250 GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) and Java-capable handsets will be able to download the browser, according to Vodafone. The browser lets Vodafone transform even basic handsets into very capable Internet browsing devices, it said.
The browser has been customized with support for widgets based on a specification from the Joint Innovation Lab, which was co-founded by Vodafone.
A key feature of Opera Mini 5 is its ability compress data, which means users in emerging markets will pay less for data and can still get Internet access under “more challenging [network] conditions,” according to Vodafone. Opera Mini 5 uses a proxy server to compress and reformat Web pages before they are transmitted to the phone.
Lots of people in the U.S. have never tried the compression, or, as it is called in the Opera browser, Turbo mode, but, on a slow connection, like a dial-up line, the increase in performance makes browsing go from pulling teeth irritation to more than acceptable. This same benefit will be available on these low-cost handsets, which will not have , at first, the best of connection speeds.
Vodafone isn’t the only company that has set its sights on bringing mobile Internet access to subscribers in emerging markets. On March 26, Nokia acquired Novarra, which has worked with Vodafone UK, for an undisclosed sum. Novarra’s technology compresses and reformats Web sites for phones that can’t display them in their native form.
Last year, Nokia also launched Life Tools, which includes agriculture-related and educational services and is also aimed at emerging markets.
The battle for the browser is an important one. Browsing is usually the first step when subscribers start using mobile data, according to Paolo Pescatore, analyst at CCS Insight. The browser can then be used by the operator or the handset manufacturer as a gateway to its other services, he said.
Vodafone has a number of applications in development. They will, for example, help users find a job, buy and sell services, learn foreign languages, as well as getting access to e-mail and Internet applications such as Facebook, according to Vodafone.
For many users in emerging markets this will be the first time they get access to the Internet, according to Jonathan Arber, senior research analyst at IDC. Currently, many of the devices used in emerging markets are too basic to support browsing. However, that is poised to change over the next 18 to 24 months, and the operators and phone manufacturers want to be ready, Arber said.
Opera Mini 5 is wildly popular, and currently has no equals in what it can accomplish. Since there is this head start, and Opera will no doubt continue its innovation, the browser of choice for the majority will continue to be Opera. Maybe, with enough use one mobile devices, the look and feel will make the user want to use the closest thing to what they are used to, on their main personal computers, and Opera will begin to grow as it should have all along.
I currently don’t have a phone that will allow me to use Opera Mini, but my next one will be chosen with that in mind. Being able to use one browser, with mostly the same shortcuts, and other ways of doing things, not to mention the rest of its friendly interface, will be a very good thing.
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