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Opera Mini gets major update, focus on security

12 March 2014, 15:36Duncan Alfreds

Cape Town - Opera Software has significantly updated its mobile browser to cater for people who want an improved web experience on feature phones.

Though smartphones are outselling feature phones, many people - particularly in developing markets use feature phones as their internet access portal because of the lower data costs associated with using the devices.

"In many other markets in Africa, we see very few PCs. And the guy on the street, he basically gets access to the internet through a mobile phone," Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera Software told News24.

The version of the browser, Opera Mini 8, has been redesigned to improve the functionality of the Speed Dials for speedy access to popular websites and a new Private and Night Mode.

"When they are reading the internet or checking their Facebook account, they are doing this in bed - and that's why we have Night Mode," said Boilesen of user patterns in consuming mobile internet content in Africa.

Privacy concerns

Night Mode is designed for people who use their phones at night and have issues with a bright screen glare in a darkened room.

Private Mode allows private tabs that won’t store the details on the phone nor on the Opera servers, while keeping other web windows open and unaffected.

Privacy has emerged as a key concern for internet users with reports of wholesale data collection by government agencies, including the US NSA.

Opera says that it is concerned about privacy issues, and a new report from Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) says that a global spying campaign is being carried out by democratically elected governments.

Despite the damaging revelations, there has not been a correlation of data confirming that people are abandoning internet platforms.

"I think people are more worried about what the NSA is doing with their data than what an advertising agency or a Walmart company will do with their data. They know that the worst thing that can happen is that we want to sell something, and they know that rule of the game," said Maurice Lévy chair and CEO of Publicis Groupe, France.

Browser market

According to statistics by industry tracker StatCounter, around 36% of mobile internet traffic in SA goes through Opera Mini servers, and in Africa, that number climbs to 48.3%.

While Opera commands a small percentage of desktop browsing according to W3schools.com at 1.8% as of January 2014, whereas on mobile platforms, Opera Mini has a 13.8% market share, according to StatCounter.

"Roughly half of our 250 million Opera Mini users are on basic phones, also called feature phones, and, today, their browser got even better," said Christian Uribe, Product Manager for Opera Mini, Opera Software.

The company says that because of its compression technology, users saved around $1bn in data costs during 2013.

Opera Mini 8 is a free download from the website.

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