At 6.5 inches, the iPhone XS Max’s screen is one of the largest ever put into a phone. That’s fantastic for things like watching movies, but less so anytime you want to navigate the device with just one hand.
Credit: Caitlin McGarry/Tom's GuideWeb browsing can be a particularly frustrating task on a device this big. That’s precisely why Opera’s developed a new browser for phones with larger screens, called Opera Touch. The browser released on Android earlier in the year, but made its way to the iOS App Store today (Oct. 2).
Opera Touch is compatible with handsets of all sizes, but it’s especially useful if you’ve got a big phone. That’s because many of the basic functions of the browser are housed in a button at the bottom of the screen, well within your thumb’s reach.
This button hovers over the top of whatever you’re looking at, and pressing and holding it reveals a radial menu with a selection of commands. You can access search this way, flip between tabs or enter something into the address bar. You can also send content to what Opera calls your Flow — a hub that contains saved web pages, and is accessible across desktop and mobile versions of the browser. Flow also allows you to keep notes within the feed of content, which is a nice bonus.
Opera Touch’s address bar and full settings are still situated at the top of the screen. In truth, you probably won’t have to interact with this menu much, so its placement isn’t a huge deal. But it’s surprising Opera hasn’t just moved everything to the bottom of the display, like Google did in a few experimental versions of Chrome for mobile.
In practice, the radial menu works really well and makes one-handed use on a phone the size of the iPhone XS Max much less awkward. On the XS Max, I could visit my favorite sites without needing to use two hands to cradle the handset at all times.
Most of the browser’s active tabs populate the outer edge of the circle, and whatever overflows is kept on a separate Rolodex-like screen you’re probably accustomed to seeing in your current browser. That makes it a cinch to get around quickly in Opera Touch.
Opera Touch isn’t just easier to use, either — it also features a built-in ad blocker and protection against sites that surreptitiously use your device’s CPU for cryptocurrency mining. The latter is something neither Google nor Apple can claim in their respective mobile browsers, and hopefully they’ll take notice.
At the end of the day, the only serious knock against Opera is that if you’re invested in a Safari or Chrome ecosystem, it’s going to be a hard sell. That’s true for all third-party browsers, but let’s face it: features like Continuity on Safari are tremendously useful, and if you own a Mac, it’s the kind of interaction between devices that makes you want to stay within Apple’s world. Moving to Opera Touch may necessitate moving to Opera on desktop, too — and that’s not something I’m sure many users have the patience to try.