Browsing the web on a handheld console or mobile phone has never been the most edifying experience. In fact, it's a bit like riding a unicycle in the Tour de France – sure you can do it and if you put in a lot of effort it sort of works, but ultimately it takes ages to get anywhere and it hardly seems worth the bother when there are better tools for the job (like a proper bicycle or laptop).
That could all be about to change however with the launch of the Opera browser for Nintendo DS, which promises to maximise the unique double screen design to make pocket browsing a simple and pleasurable experience.
Naturally we were somewhat sceptical when we first heard about it, and posed all the usual objections about screen resolution, URL entry and memory. Today, however, at least some of these questions have been answered by the combination of a release from Opera and a new Japanese video advert showing the browser in action (which you can check out now on our blog).
The video illustrates the browsing technique, which sees the lower touch screen used for scanning zoomed-out pages and interaction via the stylus, whilst the top screen displays the zoomed-in detail. It also shows both text entry and handwriting recognition systems for rapid entry of URLs, as well as a host of standard browser features including bookmarks.
A small corner of the Opera website filled out the gaps in our Japanese translation, providing a fuller insight into the feature list. Hence we know that there will be two browsing modes on offer – a standard 'DS' setup – which uses the zoomed-out approach detailed above – plus an 'SSR' mode showing the whole site at full size across both screens.
Whilst the stylus will be the principle method of control, the DS buttons can also be used as short-cuts for navigation, whilst a quick search toolbar using your search engine of choice and five 'speed-buttons' (mapping common net vocabulary such as '.com' to aid URL entry) also look set to keep surfing swift.
Meanwhile, a colourful toolbar across the bottom of the screen will allow users quick access to regular features such as forward/back, bookmarks, history, URL entry, zoom level, help and find.
Due to hit the Japanese streets next week (on July 24th to be exact) at 3,800 yen in separate DS and DS Lite versions (a small design difference only for memory pack plug-in), a US and European release shouldn't be far behind. Indeed Opera are promising an update on global rollout next week and we'll convey it just as rapidly as we can.
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