March 18, 2010, 12:00 AM

New browsers promise to speed web page loading on mobile phones

In the ongoing drive to make accessing the web as fast on a mobile phone as on a PC, Opera Software released upgraded versions of its Mini 5 and Mobile 10 web browsers this week that are designed to nearly double web download speeds, the company says.

In the ongoing drive to make accessing the web as fast on a mobile phone as on a PC, Opera Software released upgraded versions of its Mini 5 and Mobile 10 mobile web browsers this week that are designed to nearly double web download speeds, the company says.

The Opera Mini 5 is designed with data compression technology capable of reducing the volume of data downloaded to mobile phones by up to 90%, which could effectively cut download times by 90%, experts say.

“Keeping in mind the needs and wants of our 50-plus million users, we have emphasized speed, desktop functionality and data savings in our mobile browsers,” says Lars Boilesen, CEO of Oslo, Norway-based Opera.

Nisheeth Mohan, a mobile product manager at Keynote Systems Inc., a mobile and Internet test and measurement company, says that if the Opera Mini 5 performs as promised, it would be a game-changer in the performance of mobile devices.

“If they can improve download speed by 90%, that could be a revolutionary thing,” Mohan says. “Download speed improvement is directly proportional to the volume of content delivered. If they can reduce the volume of content downloaded by 90%, that should improve download speeds by 90%.”

He adds, however, that actual download speeds are also impacted by factors such as the speed of the network on which a mobile phone or other device operates and the type of web site that is downloading content to the device.

Under optimal conditions-such as when a mobile device is operating on a new high-speed 4G network and the device user is downloading a web page, such as Google.com, that is light on content-the 90% improvement in mobile download speed indicated by Opera could make a mobile device comparable with a desktop, Mohan says. He adds that Keynote has yet to test the new Opera browsers, but will soon include them when testing the performance of web sites and web applications.

Mohan adds that mobile download speeds have already improved slightly in recent years, to an average web page download speed of about six seconds from about nine seconds, because of faster networks and improved browsers. By comparison, average desktop download speeds are closer to 1 to 2 seconds.

Opera also says the data compression on the Mini 5 is designed to lower costs on pay-per-megabyte data plans or when roaming. It uses only a tenth of the bandwidth of other mobile browsers, the company says. The Opera Mini 5 browser is available on all Java-based, Blackberry, Android and Windows Mobile smartphones.

Opera Software also introduced this week a new version of its Opera Mobile 10 browser, which is available on Windows Mobile and Symbian S60-based smartphones and is designed to compress data by up to 80%, the company says.

Each browser offers a new user interface featuring speed dial, tab menus to navigate among multiple web sites, and a password manager. An Opera Link feature allows users to synchronize bookmarks, notes and speed dial between a computer and a mobile phone.

Using speed dial, users can launch favorite web sites with a single click, the company says. The user interface works for both touchscreen and keypad devices, and can be switched between portrait and landscape mode. Users also can adjust the font size for easier reading.

Both browsers can be downloaded directly to a mobile phone at no cost from m.Opera.com.

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