Opera's newest attempt at a mobile browser is now live on Google Play. While still in beta, the browser has been completely retooled and is now based on WebKit. Unlike earlier, the browser lacks a Mini or Mobile moniker, and is simply named Opera Beta. You can grab it from Google Play for free.

The browser's interface is radically different from its earlier incarnations. Instead of having the familiar navigation bars at the top and bottom, it instead goes for a design much like Chrome for Android. There is only one bar at the top, which houses all the controls. Even the speed dial has been redesigned to just show icons instead of a picture of the website.

The homepage also contains compact icons or ‘apps’, which can be used to open pages directly. The URL and search bars have been combined to make the browsing experience simpler.

The new WebKit-based Opera is something we can get behind

The new WebKit-based Opera is something we can get behind

We tried the browser out and it feels just as fast as Chrome for Android. We didn't run any benchmarks to confirm if the browser is indeed faster than its contemporaries.

The company showcased its WebKit-based Android browser at last month's Mobile World Congress. Opera said it will be gradually making the WebKit shift to desktop browsers as well. “The WebKit engine is already very good, and we aim to take part in making it even better. It supports the standards we care about, and it has the performance we need,” said Håkon Wium Lie, CTO of Opera Software.

Wium Lie said it made more sense to have Opera’s experts work with open source communities to further improve WebKit and Chromium rather than further develop its own rendering engine. Wium Lie also revealed that Opera intended to contribute to WebKit and Chromium projects and it had already submitted its first set of patches, which aim to improve the multi-column layout.

Hints of a WebKit-based Opera browser named Ice hit the headlines back in January. In a video published by Pocket-lint, Opera CEO Lars Boilesen explained that Opera had traded in the traditional tabs and buttons in favour of an all-touch, gesture-based control system with Ice.

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