The free Opera Mini mobile browser has won fans with its "Opera Mini mode," which compresses dense Web pages (with lots of graphics) down to as little as 10 percent of their original sizes. This ultra-compression feature can make Web pages look extremely bare bones, but they're still (mostly) usable. The upside: It reduces your data consumption, which can be helpful if you're traveling on an expensive international data roaming plan, using a slow network or are on a limited data plan.
With the new version 8 for iOS, you get a new compression choice: Opera Turbo. This mode still compresses Web pages but less dramatically than the Mini mode. Opera Software says Turbo mode saves you up to 50 percent in data consumption without forfeiting a "rich media" experience. (As of this writing, Opera Mini on Android does not have the new Turbo mode feature.)
The third option is to turn data savings off entirely. To switch modes, you click the "O" logo within the browser, tap "Savings Enabled" and then choose the mode you want.
In my tests visiting graphic-intensive sites on my iPhone and iPad, Mini mode sometimes stripped out a lot.
For example, in Mini mode, the browser automatically served up the mobile version of The Huffington Post on my iPad, displaying only a total of seven articles. The HuffPo home page is always crammed with tons of articles, photos and videos, so the difference was dramatic. The browser's Turbo mode served the full desktop HuffPo home page and looked nearly identical to its appearance when rendered without compression mode enabled.
(The Huffington Post in Mini mode on an iPad)
(The Huffington Post in Turbo mode on an iPad)
Mini mode displayed far more of CNN's home page. However, I could hardly tell the difference between Mini, Turbo and "off" modes. So you have to fiddle with the settings, depending upon the sites you tend to visit frequently. The browser tells you how much data it's saved you in Mini and Turbo modes, which is a nice feature.
Opera Mini 8 has a few more cool features worth mentioning. The interface has been redesigned to make it more compatible with iOS 7's look and feel. That's great, but it feels a bit tardy. There's now a QR code reader built into the app's keyboard — brilliant! New private browsing tabs cloak your search history and sites visited from others who may use the browser after you. The new Discover feature, which I enjoyed using, lets you browse top stories by categories, such as Arts, Business, Gaming, Sports and Technology.
If you're looking for a mobile Safari alternative, check out Opera Mini 8, especially if you're in a situation that warrants economizing your mobile data consumption.
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