Much hullabaloo was made leading up to the approval and release of the Opera Mini web browsing app in the iPhone App Store. Those who were familiar: “This is going to be the best app of all time! An app-pocalypse, even!” Those who weren’t familiar: “I don’t need another music composition app on my iPhone, thanks.”

Well, Opera Mini landed a few weeks ago, and after giving it a whirl, I’ve come to a conclusion that I’ll cheat and reveal before the jump: It’s not an “app-pocalypse,” but this is definitely the best web browsing app available for the iPhone.


Here’s an introduction video from the developers so you can get a firm grasp on what we’re talking about. Then, let’s break it down by features, shall we?

Start Page (Speed Dial)

Instantly—and I do mean instantly, which we’ll get to later&Mdash;when you open the Opera Mini app, you’re brought to your Start Page, which looks like the keypad on a standard phone, with nine spaces to save websites you’d like instant access to. Type websites directly into the spaces you’d like to save, or save them from your list of Bookmarks. Then “speed dial” the site of your choosing to avoid any typing (or typos, rather).

Bookmarks

Though you have your Start Page with instant access to your favorite sites, you do only have nine precious slots to give away. Your Bookmarks list lets you save endless websites for later perusing, and it’s not unfamiliar to a Bookmarks list you would find elsewhere. Nothing to see here, folks…

Saved Pages

Opera Mini gets a little more specific than many web browsers do with the Saved Pages feature, which is, in fact, different from the Bookmarks feature. Instead of cluttering your Bookmarks list with single web pages for articles you want to read or refer to later, cool photos you want to show someone, or just a site you need to remind yourself to check out when you get to a computer, you can save these pages in your Saved Pages. No Internet connection or signal is needed to view your Saved Pages, which could get you out of a real pickle if you need some information quickly and find yourself in a dreaded “No Service” zone.

Tabs

Just like on your desktop, you can easily browse several web pages at a time with tabs in Opera Mini. An icon in your toolbar pulls up a row of card-like screenshots of all the tabs you currently have open, and you can easily remove or shuffle between them. The feature bears a pleasant resemblance to that of the new multitasking feature to come in iPhone’s OS 4.0.

Not only can you browse between tabs, but you can also pull up a link on your current web page in another tab, as you would on a desktop by right-clicking. In Opera Mini, you tap and hold on the link you want to open, then release and tap again on “Open in New Tab.” Both of the options here for tabs are pretty integral to bringing together a seamless browsing experience that really does mimic that of one on a regular desktop.

Find Text

This is a big deal, folks. Unlike the now seemingly archaic Safari app, you can use the Find Text tool in Opera Mini to…find text. The feature is located in the main toolbar and works just as it would on a desktop. Type in your text, and Opera Mini finds it immediately, then allowing you to tap “Next” to find any other occurrences of the text. Magic!

Interface (Zoom, Text Size, Etc.)

Many of the smaller, seemingly insignificant features in Opera Mini actually, in fact, make the browser into the great experience that it is. The zooming option is easy and fast to use, as the screen can automatically zoom and snap to columns of text you want to read. None of that tedious pinching and pulling to get the screen in that exact spot you want it in.

You can also customize the size of the text, copy and paste text with the “Long-clicking” feature discussed in the Tabs section above, or just take advantage of the text predictor when typing in web addresses.

Speed

Now, the best for last: The speed of this app really is something to rejoice. Save for a few hiccups here and there, Opera Mini is definitely the fastest web browser available right now and completely surpasses the standard Safari app. Not only does the app open quickly, but virtually any web page, even ones heavy with graphics and links, can be opened in just a few seconds.

And every feature outlined above can be used just as quickly. The Find Text feature works is lightning-fast, accessing your Bookmarks doesn’t stall the app, and the “speed dial” feature is anything but a false witness.

Recap & Conclusion

Opera Mini
Price: FREE
Released: April 13, 2010
Our Grade: A+

At the extremely reasonable price of FREE and with all of the glowing things I’ve had to said about this app (as outlined above), there’s absolutely no reason not to give this app a shot. Opera Mini is completely functional, easy-to-use, and creates a seamless user experience that is about as close to an at-home web browsing experience as one can get on an iPhone. One thing: Apple should have developed this first. What gives?

Go ahead…Download it!