Monday, September 12, 2005

Web Browsing on a Palm - Opera Review

Today I review Opera Mini - the J2ME version for mobile phones. J2ME means it has some restrictions - no downloads, no support for local HTML pages on cards, ... But more about that later. There are two versions - one for LoRes and one for HiRes. I test the HiRes version.

The interface

This is the start page which can NOT be changed. There are some hyperlinks from TV2, a TV channel in Norway which provides Opera Mini, a web search and a history of visited pages. In the menu are commands for entering an URL, viewing and editing bookmarks, settings, submitting a bug to Opera Software and a help. The help is, like the whole program, availible in English and Norwegian. There are not much settings to configure: For example, you can choose whether to load images and the quality of images, font smoothing and the language. Font smoothing makes the font smaller - but it will get VERY, VERY slow.

Using Opera

I tested it intensive a week ago, it worked well and fast - today is very slow, but this should be my fault because the wireless access point that connects me to the internet isn't very near and I had to do a hardreset. In my test it could display all web pages I opened. I didn't try flash pages (and they won't work I think) or pages that are *very* difficult to display but all pages I normally go to.

Long pages are no problems, Opera (or the proxy server) splits them into small parts. Images are no problems, but tables or frames aren't shown. Opera has "SSR" (small screen rendering). With this technology you haven't to scroll horizontally because all pages are as broad as the screen. Even forms are availible and so I could post answers on boards.

One thing I liked especially: The Java VM had full support for the 5-way-navigator (also known as D-pad) like Treo 600, 650 or Tungsten T5 f. e. You don't need a stylus because you can handle almost ALL functions with the 5-way-navigator - dialogues, links, buttons, checkboxes, ... For me (Tungsten C) it's something special.

Although there are some good functions - it is J2ME - a language for mobile phones, and this language has restrictions on mobile phones: it doesn't support cards, flash memory, bluetooth, internal databases like contacts or SMS. So this version of Opera doesn't support downloads, uploads or HTML files on cards. There aren't much J2ME applications that support cards or file sysytems, but I think they are NOT impossible. IBM WebSphere Environment supports card operations.

My results

This ís a good idea - for owners of mobile phones and Palms, but there could still be a "true" version for Palm OS. The Opera CEO says that they don't know if there will be a version for Palm OS. So we have to wait and use Opera Mini. It isn't bad and displays many pages better and faster than Web Browser or Web Pro. Nevertheless it isn't the only browser I use - think about NetFront or Picsel Browser - they have SSR, are fast(er than Web Pro), too, support downloads, uploads, ...

J2ME Runtime:


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