Ever since the dawn of mobile phones, Opera‘s web browser has been there on tiny screens with tiny data plans. Now the Finnish company is again trying its luck, this time on an even more minuscule screen, with the Opera Mini becoming the first web browser for Samsung Tizen-powered Gear S smartwatch, making it also the first major web browser to ever advertise support for the device category.
Opera, and in particular the Opera Mini, prides itself for saving on bandwidth and, therefore, data usage and fees by compressing web pages to as little as 10 percent before sending it to the user’s phone for viewing. The challenge in this Gear S incarnation, however, isn’t trying to fit bandwidth into a decent size but trying to fit the browser’s contents to a smaller screen.
To some extent, Opera Mini does make for a a good smartwatch browser. It was designed from the beginning for feature phones that had small screens or small resolutions, which is basically what a smartwatch today has. It’s Speed Dial shortcuts, now implemented by almost all major web browsers, makes for a perfect metaphor for jumping to websites from a new tab. The browser also employs large buttons on its user interface, making them easier to hit with a finger on such a small surface area.
The addition of a dedicated web browser for the Samsung Gear S also seems like a match made in heaven. After all, of all the major OEM smartwatches available or soon to be available in the market, it is the only one that comes with its own data connection. That said, web browsing on such a display, even if the interface has been reworked for it, will most likely still feel like a painful experience. Plus, it will also depend on users’ data plans, which, for most, means carrier support. So far only AT&T seems to be advertising its interest in the smartwatch, though it still has yet to formally announce the availability of the device.