By Alexandra Burlacu | Mar 05, 2013 09:33 AM EST
Opera released the first version of its overhauled browser, and for now it is available only for the Android mobile operating system.
The first of Opera's new mobile browsers seems brand new on the outside as well as under the hood, from a unified search and address bar to a reimagined Speed Dial and curated content discovery.
The beta version has several notable aspects and it is a result of the company's under-the-hood shift to new technologies, including WebKit. At the same time, it also marks a major step forward on the front-end.
With the new Opera for Android beta, the URL and search bars are now unified, much like with Google's Chrome Web browser. The startup screen sports a major overhaul as well, with a curated content discovery feature that slightly resembles Google Currents. The History page, meanwhile, is easier to access compared to previous versions of the browser. Opera also catches up to rival mobile browsers in terms of private browsing, which was not an option until now.
The company also improved the Speed Dial concept, listing links as a selection of favorite pages that appear on new tabs. With the new redesign, Opera now treats Speed Dial links just like bookmarks, allowing users to easily organize them in folders.
Apart from these changes, the Opera browser still sports the features that made it popular among users, such as the ability to save pages for offline reading, or the optional server-side compression to speed up page loads and reduce data usage.
While its features made Opera very popular with a subset of Internet users, its problem was that it always looked very different. The company tried to offer something different than its rivals, and it managed to implement some new concepts such as Speed Dial that others later picked up on. Some even argue that tabbed browsing started with Opera, while others claim it was Firefox' merit.
The new iteration sports a native-Android look, and while features such as the combined search/URL bar may not be original, they were necessary nonetheless. Lastly, the start screen is now far more intuitive and richer in features. Opera for Android beta is the first of the new Opera browsers to make its debut, and across-the-board revamps should become available soon.
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