Opera is said to be bringing a new WebKit based browser to Android and iOS. Named "Ice", it presents a radical departure from what we're used to seeing with the stock Android Browser, Chrome, or even Safari. Shown off in an internal meeting right before Christmas, the folks at Pocket-lint got their hands on a copy and now we all can have a look.
Besides the UI, which we'll get back to in a moment, it's important to recognize that "Ice" won;t be using the same Presto rendering platform that Opera's current Android apps use. With Ice, Opera has moved to WebKit, the same engine that Chrome and Safari, as well as the stock Android browser and all the custom browsers in Google Play, are using. This should give Ice an edge, as most mobile pages and web apps are designed with WebKit in mind.
The new Opera Ice browser will be based around hiding the technology as much as possible and embracing rich applications. It will ditch all buttons and instead use gestures to control key elements like forwards and backwards. "This is a full touch and tablet-focused browser," said the product manager in the video we've seen. "Most are taking a PC browser and squishing [it] into a tablet, or they are taking a mobile browser and blowing it up to fill the space."
Yes, the UI looks very different. I'm not sure how I feel about "hiding technology" from the end user in favor of gestures and big icons, but I'll have to give the finished product a look before a final judgment.
Ice is not set to replace Opera mini, the small browser that compresses data to save time and bandwidth, but we expect that it may push the standard Opera Mobile for Android browser into retirement. Word is we'll know more at Mobile World Congress, which is coming right around the corner. We'll be there, and keep an eye out.