Opera releases Android beta

Just three weeks after announcing its plans to scrap its Pesto rendering engine and switch to WebKit, Opera’s released a beta version of the Opera browser for Android that it showed off at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month.

Rebuilt from the ground up, it boasts a completely new user interface, built to the native specifications of the Android platform.

“There are countless hours that have gone into making this completely new, completely re-thought Opera for Android,” says EVP of product development Rikard Gillemyr.

“I dare say that many smartphone users spend much more time using their web browser than any other app on their phones. That’s why we have made our newest mobile phone browser more elegant and more beautiful than ever, while still packing so much functionality into it.”

The browser includes a new Discover panel on the startup screen, displaying a selection of popular articles from global and regional sources. The company’s hung on to its Speed Dial feature, but revamped it: bookmarks are now fused with Speed Dial entries to make them easier to group, organize and rename.

There’s also an Off-Road mode based on server caching, integrating the compression technology from Opera Mini for faster browsing on poor networks.

The finished Opera for Android is expected to appear by mid-summer, with an iOS version following shortly after. The company’s said it plans to move over to WebKit for all versions of its browser in a gradual process. WebKit is the same engine as is used by Apple Safari, Google Chrome and several other browsers.