Opera is releasing a new Android web browser today with a couple of clever interface choices meant to make it easier to use than other mobile browsers. It’s called Opera Touch, and the interface is designed around one-handed use.
When you open it, the address bar immediately opens up and is ready for you to begin typing a URL or a search query. And when you’re on a website, scrolling up will reveal a button at the bottom of the page that you can tap to access your other tabs or to start a new one.
That alone is a handy addition: a lot of mobile browsers still place all of their buttons on the top of the screen (namely, Chrome), forcing you to reach up or reposition your hand just to change tabs. Being able to do that with just one hand is definitely a convenience.
Opera Touch also includes a feature that lets you push websites from your phone to your desktop, or vice versa, so long as you’re using Opera on both platforms. Some of that will happen automatically (a “continue from computer” option will pop up when you open a new tab on mobile), but if you want to make sure a site transfers over, you can send it using a feature Opera calls “Flow.” Flow creates a feed of websites that you’ve shared from one platform to the other that you can scroll back through to find what you’re looking for.
Those are both nice features, but I don’t know that they’ll be enough to convince people to change from whatever browser they’re currently using. That’s especially because, going off browser usage stats, you’re a lot more likely to be using Chrome on your desktop than Opera, and the tab syncing feature only works if you use Opera in both places. And since Chrome already has a tab syncing feature — albeit, a somewhat harder to use one — there’s not a ton to be gained. Chrome is, seemingly, even in the process of getting its navigation bar shifted to the bottom.
This is kind of just what Opera does now, though: it releases ideas every now and then for what a browser could be like. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not. And it’s not really clear that they’ve made any real impact. For instance, Opera released an experimental browser called Neon last January, and as far as I can tell, it hasn’t been updated in a year. But it was a neat experiment. And since Opera isn’t particularly competitive in the browser space any more, trying out new interfaces seems like a smart enough way to get attention.
Opera Touch is only available on Android at launch, but an iOS version is in the works. Opera also plans to continue development of its existing mobile browser.