Hands-On Demo Video: Opera Mini for iPhone [Update: First Impressions, Speed tests!]

Today was the day that pigs flew. Seemingly out of no where (or, arguably, perfectly timed to downplay all the recent rabble rousing surrounding some new terms added to the SDK), Opera Mini has been approved for the iPhone.

It’s not going to be available in the US for a few more hours, but we were able to dig it up by tinkering around with some settings and, well, pretending we were somewhere else. I’m checking it out right this second, but I wanted to give you guys a really quick hands on demonstration, along with a few early impressions and speed tests, to tide you over until it’s available everywhere.

We’ll update this post with any impressions we’ve got, and basic Safari vs. Opera Mini load time test results.

Update – First Impressions:

  • Just in general use so far, the page loads seem pretty snappy. I’m not going to play psychic and try to guess how much faster/slower it is than Safari, but I’ll have some test results on that in a few.
  • Scrolling is a bit more sensitive than it is in Safari. This takes a minute or two to get used to, but I’m liking it so far; I feel like I’m getting around the page faster.
  • It’s by all means first release software. The page renderer shows things in a weird way (an artifact of it rearanging text to fit in one zoomed viewing window, removing the need to scroll around) sometimes.
  • The tabbing system seems really, really great. I prefer it over Safari’s, even. Unlike Safari, you can view all your open tabs without blocking the entire page. New tabs open instantly to your home page (which is a 3×3 grid of your favorite sites), and you can punch in your destination URL from there. I’m sitting here jumping back and forth between 3 different tabbed windows, and there’s next to zero delay. It’s absolutely fantastic, and how I wish tabbing was done in Safari.
  • Opera Mini compresses everything on the server side before sending it to your device, which is why it (theoretically) speeds things up and allows you to use less data. Alas, this means that if Opera’s servers go down, so does Opera Mini. I’ve seen the servers go down once already for about a minute during my testing, but this was presumably due to some last minute change that required a restart. When it goes down, all pages return a “Internal Server Error”.
  • There are definitely bugs. It’s not terribly broken by any means, but bug spottings are common.
  • The multitouch pinch to zoom here is …weird. It’s not like Safari’s, where you’re really controlling the zoom level; you’re really just switching between zoomed and not zoomed.

Update – Speed Tests:

Our first speed tests are in.

  • 3G Speed Test:

On a 3G connection, Opera Mini is consistently and considerably faster than Safari. We only saw one site (Facebook) where Opera Mini wasn’t the clear victor, and the load times there were within about a second of each other. Both browsers had clear caches and histories, and all pages loaded were their standard PC versions (rather than their mobile-optimized counterparts).

  • WiFi Speed Test:

WiFi results were strikingly similar to the 3G results, with all pages loading faster on Opera Mini than on Safari outside of Facebook, where Safari wins by a hair. The difference in page load times were considerably less vast on WiFi.