These days, just about everything makes its public debut in Beta form. Google launched Gmail into an immediate state of notability with its Beta strategy, and chose to hang on to the tag for years for good measure. Online games have more players in their Beta period than the games of yesteryear ever had. There’s a joke to be made here about Apple managing to sell a few million iPhone 4s before it was out of Beta, but I’ll leave that flamewar fuel (mostly) untapped for tonight.
Sooner or later, all good Betas must come to an end. The latest product shedding its Beta skin? Opera Mini for Android.
If you’ve been using Opera Mini 5 for Android for a while, the sans-Beta 5.1 build won’t seem too much different. Same proxy-powered compression magic speeding up browsing and cutting down data usage, same tabbed interface, same PC bookmark syncing functionality — in fact, outside of a few minor tweaks and a laundry list of bug fixes, the only new feature warranting the bump from 5.0 to 5.1 is official support for devices with big ol’ screens, like the HTC Evo 4G and the Moto Droid X.
Alas, that means that at least one worthwhile feature is still missing from the application: multi-level multi-touch pinch/zoom support. Yeah, that’s a mouthful. In other words, it lacks the ability to zoom as much or as little as the user wants by way of the now familiar pinching/zooming gestures. Like its iPhone twin, this build does support multi-touch zoom in some sense; it’s just all or nothing, fully zoomed or not zoomed at all. It may seem trivial, but that little discrepancy is make or break for some.
With that aside, the little bit of time I’ve spent with 5.1 has been nothing but pleasurable. It’s lightning quick, and has been stable as a rock so far. Between Android’s already solid default browser and other alternatives like Dolphin and Skyfire, it’s getting waaay too hard for me to recommend just one — so I’ll let you do it. What browser are you using on Android? Let us know in the comments below.