Opera Software has released a first beta version of Opera running on webkit for Android to the Google Play store. The release acts as a preview version for Opera's upcoming browser that will replace the current Opera Mobile browsers that are available in the store in the long run with the exception of Opera Mini on devices older than version 2.3.
The browser uses a unified address and search bar on top matching the aesthetics of the Android ecosystem in a way that the previous browsers did not. You also find the settings button on top, but the rest of the screen is reserved for the websites and services you open.
A short introduction is displayed that highlights some of the features that Opera makes available. There is for instance the Off-Road mode which seems to be the new name for Opera Turbo on the device, as it is designed to improve connections and load times in situations where connections are not the best.
The company has improved the Speed Dial on the new tab page. You can now group items together to save space on the screen. While you can't seem to open groups at once, it is still helping you place more website links on the same page without scrolling.
Here you also find the new discover feature which acts as a filtered news reader. You can configure Discover to display news for a specific region or country based on interests such as technology, business, health or sports. It is basically a collection of top news based on those selections.
Existing Opera users can make use of Opera Link, the company's data synchronization service, which Opera built-in to the browser.
There are a couple of things that could be better. It takes at least three taps to open another tab using the browser, and the missing loading indicator for websites may have you guess at times when and if a website is coming up.There is also no fullscreen option available right now, even though that would only mean the removal of the small bar on top anyway.
Considering that this is a beta version, it is of surprising overall quality already. Especially the performance and compatibility has been improved significantly thanks to Webkit, and the inclusion of Opera Turbo, albeit under a new name, is definitely a great feature that sets the browser apart from others.
I'd like to see more options though, for instance to change the default search engine of the browser which currently does not seem possible. All in all though it is a promising start for Opera Software.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.