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App of the week – Opera Mini

Platform: Apple iPhone/iPod touch Price: £free There has to be a reason why the most control-freak corporation on the planet is allowing users to do

Platform: Apple iPhone/iPod touch

Price: £free

Whatever Apple’s motives, Opera Mini is a welcome alternative to Apple’s functional but clunky Safari browser. For a start, Opera Mini is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-loading swift, pulling down pre-compressed pages from Opera’s servers twice as fast as it takes Safari to load them.

Then there’s a “speed dial” start screen with one-prod links to your nine favourite sites. Or multiple thumbnail tabs that you can shuffle around and pull to the front, a bit like a Palm Pre. Or decent hold-and-press contextual menus.

Opera Mini is neatly customisable, too, letting you choose font size, adjust image quality (or even avoid loading them at all), save pages for offline viewing and syncing bookmarks with your desktop Opera browser (for all 1.84% of you out there).

However, don’t write off Safari just yet. Apple’s browser remains the default destination for links from other apps, and can handle some content (for example, QuickTime videos) that Opera baulks at.

More annoyingly, although pages load in a flash, the initial text size is ridiculously, unbelievably small (and BTW there’s still no Flash support). Zooming, either by pinching or tapping, is on the enthusiastic side, so it can be tricky getting pages sized just right.

Ultimately, Apple might have allowed Opera on board the iPhone to show that, sure, Safari could be faster and smarter, but you know what? It’s actually not half bad to start with.