Opera browser beta for Android brings Off-Road mode, discovery and brand new look

The new Opera browser for Android is now available in beta, joining the likes of Chrome, Firefox and Dolphin, in bringing the web to your pocket.

As was revealed in a leaked corporate briefing video and subsequently confirmed by Opera Software ASA, the company has moved over to WebKit for the development of its new browser, the same platform as Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome browsers.

But platforms aside, what does the new browser actually bring you? Opera highlights that there’s a new layout for a mobile Opera browser, but we suspect that many won’t have used Opera on Android before, because of the other strong offerings in place.

The layout is clean and intuitive, with the top bar giving you the ability to instantly add a webpage to Speed Dial - Opera’s take on favourites and bookmarks - as well as refresh the page.

The navigation bar is clever too, as when you go to type into it you’ll get the option of selecting where you want to search. The default is Google, in which case it behaves just like Chrome’s, but you can also direct Opera to Amazon, Dictionary.com, eBay, IMDb and Wikipedia.

That’s great in principle, but we found that results aren’t regionalised, so if you’re not in the US, then the eBay and Amazon results are sort of irrelevant.

 

Elsewhere you have the “O” Opera menu button. It’s here you’ll find some of the browser’s interesting features. You get the option to share using the normal Android sharing route, as well as being able to access Speed Dial, history and a Discover feature.

Discover is designed to find and feed you news, although in the time we’ve been playing with the new Opera, it hasn’t given us anything – this is a beta, so perhaps that’s still to come.

But the more exciting stuff is in the Off-Road mode. This uses compression to serve up your pages faster when your connection is poor. The aim is to save data, with a readout showing you what saving you made. We’ll be testing this on the road to see just how effective it is.

You can also save pages for reading later, and search within a page. Of course multiple tabs are also supported and it’s easy to navigate between them and close pages you don’t want. You can also open a private tab if you want your searching excluded from your history.

"There are countless hours that have gone into making this completely new, completely re-thought Opera for Android," said Rikard Gillemyr, Opera Software's executive vice-presient of product development.

"I dare say that many smartphone users spend much more time using their web browser than any other app on their phones. That's why we have made our newest mobile phone browser more elegant and more beautiful than ever, while still packing so much functionality into it. Go ahead - take the Opera beta out for a spin on your Android phone and see for yourself."

So far we’re impressed. Opera is available to download now from Google Play.