Opera, in its Opera Mini format, is simply a downloadable Web browser that works on certain smartphones to replace or augment the users options for accessing the Web—it's free, developed by Opera Software (and, curiously, Google). It works on a variety of phones from handset makers including LG and Nokia—but not the iPhone.
The stats for September from Opera's regular "State of The Mobile Web" report show that traffic flowing through Opera's servers rose by 8.7% over the previous month. So far in October it has netted 26.9% of the global mobile browsing market, beating Apple's iPhone Safari browser into second place with 21.2%. Nokia's not far behind with 20.8%. The number of people using the mobile Opera also went up 11.5% in September versus August figures.
But the number of people using Opera mobile rose by 150% compared to the same period in 2008—a figure which can only be interpreted as an explosion in use. And the growth coming from perhaps some unexpected quarters: The browser is installed mainly on Nokia and Sony Ericsson handsets around the world, and Blackberry units in the U.S., and the list of top 10 countries using the browser includes Ukraine and Vietnam.
These stats, generated by Opera, do kind of make it look like Opera's leading the mobile Web push around the world, but they're skewed in its favor. All of the surveys about smarphone usage show that while many more people may indeed be using Opera instead of Safari, iPhone users use their Internet connection way more than other other smartphone users—a stat reflected in Opera's user figures climbing nearly 12% in the month, while data going through its servers rose just 9%: The conclusion is that Opera users just don't use the browser all that much.
Still, it's undeniably a marker that in 2009 the mobile Web, which has been bubbling under boil for several years now, has finally reached boiling point—thanks to the efforts of Opera, Apple and Nokia. And lets not forget one transformational fact that will change the mobile browsing game forever from this year onwards: Dell's due to launch its smartphone with China's biggest network, and Apple's partnered with the second place network provider. With hundreds of millions of Chinese users soon to join the mobile Web fray (albeit with China's medieval Web censorship in place) this really is the year the Net goes mobile.