Opera Launches Browser That 'Should Have Come With The iPad'

The longtime makers of the also-ran Opera Web browser and Opera Mini mobile browser is not a bit humble about its entry into the tablet market: the newly launched Coast for iPad, “the browser that is so elegant, intuitive and refined that it should have come with the iPad,” the company boasts in its announcement.

The Norwegian company says it discarded 20 years of desktop and phone browser design experience to reimagine the Web surfing interface for a larger touchscreen. “We’ve cracked the code,” Opera sings about the release, which dropped into the iTunes iPad store on Monday, Nov. 9.  

Coast minimizes the use of buttons to press and reduces the usual visible interface. The browser app has a bottom bar that brings you back to a home page of bookmark thumbnails or a screen of active tabs. There are not back and forward buttons. Instead, the user swipes right or left, respectively. Pulling the page down reloads it. There is no address bar. Tapping into the search box on the home page allows you to do a search or type in a URL. Entering an address autocompletes with thumbnails of suggested and likely landing pages.



Bookmark management is all drag and drop. Returning to the home screen from the current Web page leaves an icon of that destination in a holder at the screen bottom, which can be dragged into any of the bookmark pages you create. Keeping one of the bookmark icons depressed allows you to rearrange the pages or delete a thumbnail.

In our brief hands on with the new app, we were not convinced the interface streamlined things quite as much as it supposes. The back and forward gestures, for instance, tend to be halting in execution and employed an odd fade-in visual before actually reactivating the page. Having to return to the home page to navigate elsewhere rather than having an address bar ever-ready seemed less efficient. The content-sharing tools are better. Pages can be forwarded or posted via Facebook or Twitter, to email or SMS or printed. All of these tools pop up from the page’s thumbnail in the tab-switching window.

It is unclear how or whether Opera expects to monetize the browser. The company is no stranger to the mobile ecosystem. It owns the AdMarvel ad-serving platform, 4th Screen Advertising and MobileTheory, all of which are major providers to mobile marketers and publishers.

Opera grabs less than 2% of overall browser users on the desktop, according to NetMarketShare. But when it comes to mobile and tablet platforms, the company's Opera Mini browser has an 8.98% share worldwide, handily beating Google's Chrome (5.6%) browser. Across all smartphone and tablet devices, Safari still reigns supreme with a 55.46% market share -- far ahead of the Android operating system browser, which nabs 22.23% share.

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