Google Chrome and Safari, meet your match. Well, only on the iPad. Opera, known for its data-sipping mobile web browser, launched Coast, an iPad-only web browser that sports a minimalist design, on Apple's App Store two days ago.
A fresh slate for Coast
Opera states that Coast is meant for first-time users, who are not familiar with Opera or even any other web browsers. The idea was to give these users a fresh start with a clean interface, devoid of buttons to confuse users.
Opera’s DNA is still present in Coast, most obviously seen via the speed dial interface which features bookmarked web pages across multiple pages as thumbnails in a 3 by 3 or 3 by 4 arrangement.
Below the speed dial, a group of recently opened web pages stays faithfully pegged to the user interface as you swipe between pages of speed dial web pages. If anything, the whole user interface reminds one of Google’s Chrome OS, but Opera was quick to remind us that the focus is on web browsing.
Without buttons, you will need to rely on your wits, or to be more accurate, years of swiping on a touch screen, to interact with Coast. Thankfully, the learning curve is very gentle. It took less than two seconds for us to figure out what the refresh action is - just pull the web page down, as though you are refreshing your Twitter or Facebook feed. Other swiping actions come naturally, such as a left or right swipe to move forward or back between pages.
If there’s one thing to nitpick, it’s the lack of tabs to alternate between. Instead, web pages that you visited are listed as a history, as though you are flipping through a multi-tasking menu. Flick a page up, and it is closed. Tap and hold a web page thumbnail, and you can either add it to the speed dial, or dump it at the top of the screen.
More than just a web reader
Like any good web browser, Coast will suggest results as you type out a URL in the address bar, and shows three results on the side. If you land onto a dodgy (and by dodgy, we mean unsecured) site, Coast flags the page and blocks it immediately.
The share button, which posts the web page to the usual suspects like Facebook or Twitter, is inconspicuously hidden from the web page. Instead, you'll need to hit the history tab on the bottom right and tap the share button on the thumbnails of each page. If it’s just a single image, just tap and hold the image, and you’ll be treated to a familiar row of buttons.
The app is free to download, though for now, it is only available to iPads updated to iOS 6 and above. Tough luck for first-generation iPad, since the antiquated (by geek standards) tablet does not support iOS 6.
Android users, you might want to drop Opera a note to put the app on your favourite sweet tablet.