In a recent article for .net, mobile expert Peter-Paul Koch blasted designers and developers for arguing WebKit has a mobile monopoly and suggested everyone download Opera Mini to their iPhones and Android devices, not least due to its marketshare overtaking Safari's in December. With a great sense of timing (well, from our point of view), Opera has recently made a number of announcements related to mobile-browsing.
New versions of both Opera Mobile and Opera Mini have been released. Version 12 of the former, available for Android and Symbian, boasts improvements regarding support for HTML5, ECMAScript and CSS, and Android users also get hardware-accelerated WebGL and support for camera use in the browser. Opera adds that the Opera Mobile Emulator (opens in new tab) is available for download to assist with testing, and version 12 will be released soon. And over on iOS, Opera Mini 7 (opens in new tab) has been released.
To showcase upcoming features for Opera Mini, Opera has also announced Opera Mini Next. This introduces the Smart Page for feature phones, which Opera said will "take its position alongside Opera's famous Speed Dial shortcuts and give feature phones smarter access to social networks, the latest news and more". For smartphones, Opera said it has "focused on improving the web experience itself", through a smoother browsing experience, hardware acceleration and a revamped Speed Dial that has an unlimited number of shortcuts.
Opera also revealed usage figures for the version of Opera Mini launched by South Africa-based multinational mobile telecommunications company MTN, which has customers across Africa and the Middle East. During the past year, MTN subscribers increased Opera Mini usage by 1,665 per cent. "Opera Mini has made my life much easier because it's fast and works across the country," said Variety Marewa, a Rwandan entrepreneur. "I can check web mail, keep in touch and stay informed at less than 85 per cent of what it used to cost me." Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera Software, also added that Nigeria has become Opera Mini's fourth-largest market. And such rapid uptake in growing economies that don't have widespread access to the latest kit showcases again why designers and developers should be testing sites in a wide range of mobile browsers and not just Safari on their iPhones.