Smartphone users are increasingly turning to mobile apps for the information they want—in 2013, 80 percent of the time users spent on their smartphones was in apps, according to Super Monitoring. Software maker Opera, in tune to this preference, has created a mobile browser that's unlike anything from Google or Microsoft, as it presents Websites not as unsightly links but as applike icons.
Opera Coast opens to a clean, blank background with square-shaped icons. (Blank isn't necessary—users can customize the wallpaper, just as they would the background behind their phone's apps.)
Users swipe down on the screen to initiate a search—and even this feels better, and improved. Instead of a small box at the top, the search takes place center-screen, with large white letters on a black display for easy viewing. As you type, the browser guesses at what you'd like and quickly presents options as you go—again, not offering long, unruly links, but Website options displayed as square icons.
Click on an icon, and that site is launched. Swiping to the right takes you back and collapses the site back into a tidy box. The last site you viewed stays at the bottom of the screen; if it's a site you visit often, you can swipe it up into a lineup of icons, presented for easy access, or swipe it to the trash. If you keep it, the next time you open it, it will be refreshed.
In addition to doing away with tabs and open windows and other clutter, Coast makes it simple to idly discover new sites, thanks to a Stuff We Like bar, also available by pulling down on the page. (It shows up above where your typing shows up, before you start typing.)
Also contributing to the lack of clutter is the non-existence of ads. (Opera didn't immediately respond to a query about whether sites are paying to be included in the Stuff We Like bar.)
At the bottom of the black screen are two icons—a grid that takes you back to the home screen and three bars, which when swiped downward offer a side-by-side view of the last seven sites a user has visited.
So in review: Pull the screen down any time to search; keep or delete easy-access icons to the sites you visit most; swipe to the right at any time to go back or return to the home page; and tap the three bars at the bottom for a glace at your most recently visited sites.
It's completely unlikely anything you've used before, but likely within three minutes of use you'll intuitively understand how to navigate it. Because, again, Coast feels more like a tiny operating system hosting apps than it does like a browser.
Opera also insists Coast is secure.
"Our engineers are slamming energy drinks and working 'round the clock to keep your browsing as relaxed and carefree as possible," says the Opera site. "When you visit a bad site, we'll let you know about it. Otherwise, travel wherever you please online, secure with our under-the-hood protection."
Coast will also automatically save a user's passwords to sites, unless she goes into the settings of her phone or tablet and tells it to cut it out.
Coast is now available for iPhones and iPads.
"We're sorry for all those people who haven't yet experienced how glorious it is to lose track of time and responsibility," Opera says, mock apologizing, in a new ad filled with people waiting around for missing employees, shopkeepers and bus drivers. "Once you try [Opera Coast], you won't be able to put it down."