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Review of Opera Mobile Accelerator

Symbian platform: UIQ
Review first published in: Palmtop User magazine, issue 8

Screen shotIt seems that the folks at Opera have finally worked out a way to make some money from the UIQ version of Opera. Given away for free since the P800's launch, in association with Sony Ericsson, version 6.31 includes support for a totally new 'product', the nattily-named Opera Mobile Accelerator. Opera itself is a well known quantity on many platforms and scarcely needs a new review. Suffice it to say that it's a modern, standards-aware web browser that's capable of rendering most modern web pages. The only real problems are that Opera is very memory hungry (tending to refuse to load large pages) and that the typical bloat of many web sites (inline Javascript designed for Internet Explorer and over-complicated table layouts being the main culprits) means that Opera has to download a lot of bytes that it doesn't really have to.

The traditional solution to the latter problem, of handling page bloat, is to use a 'proxy server', a fast machine that downloads pages for you and just sends you the bits your browser can actually use. So redundant animated effects, large images and silly table layouts are all left behind and you, the user, benefit through faster page loading and lower GPRS data bills. Opera Mobile Accelerator is essentially a subscription-based proxy solution, purpose built to configure neatly into Opera for Symbian smartphones. The idea of charging for the proxy is novel, but then as Opera is free in the first place (at least for UIQ), it's hard to begrudge the developers a few Euros a year.

Whether Mobile Accelerator is as effective as its web site claims depends a lot on the types of site you visit. You'll see an improvement in speed with any site that's at all bloated, but be aware that it won't help with secure (https://) connections, e.g. eBay and online banking. And, obviously, it can't help either with pages that are already fairly efficiently coded and presented. But in Opera's defence, anyone can try out the system for 14 days for free, so it's easy to experiment using the web sites that you're particularly interested in. Mobile Accelerator is a useful (but not essential) extension to Opera's capabilities. E30 a year, www.opera.com/proxy.