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Opera loses Touch with iOS app: Browser maker locks and loads the rebrandogun

It's just 'Opera on iOS' now

Opera has pushed out an update for its iOS browser, dropping the "Touch" in Opera Touch to become just plain old Opera on iOS.

The company is approaching the third anniversary of Touch although it has a longer history of browsing on the move: Mobile editions turned up more than 20 years ago for Psion devices followed by updates for Symbian and eventually a Chromium edition for Android users. iDevice users must make do with the guts of Safari, as per Apple's rules.

As with the iOS versions of Microsoft's Edge, Google's Chrome, Vivaldi and so on, Opera has attempted to differentiate itself via the bits around the core rendering engine (what the company refers to as "the personal browser experience"). As well as the ad and cookie blocking that has become common among browsers, Opera added its Flow technology to the mobile browser at its 2018 launch to facilitate the sharing of files between desktop and device.

Requiring a scan of a QR code to link devices, the technology differs to synchronisation tools available elsewhere in the Chromium world, which normally require the manual creation of an account. It is, however, not the full-fat sync that some users crave.

Still, renaming aside, Opera has tinkered with the browser's appearance in the update. The purple logo on the home screen will be red and the UI will undergo a polishing, although the company emphasised that it didn't plan to frighten the horses with a wholesale interface change – the speed dials beloved by its users will, for example, be staying.

The company is not a big fish in the mobile browsing space. In its last set of results for calendar 2020, Opera talked of hitting 79 million average monthly PC users in Q4 (up 17 per cent on the previous year's figures). Opera don't-call-it-Touch accounted for just under three million monthly active users.

That said, Opera reckoned that iOS was its fastest-growing mobile browser, claiming a 65 per cent year-on-year growth by last month. The ability to switch default browsers in iOS 14 has been, according to the company, "a significant growth opportunity."

It's all relative. A glimpse at StatCounter's statistics show Opera trailing some distance behind Chrome and Safari (and used even less than Microsoft's Edge) in terms of global usage, although things did look perkier in terms of regional variations. Opera spent a chunk of 2020 in second place behind Chrome in Africa before being overtaken by Safari.

Opera is also notable for its dabblings in the world of fintech with Nanobank (of which Opera owns 42 per cent) notching up revenues of $46m in Q4. Opera was also chuffed to note that the OPay payment system (of which it owns 13.1 per cent) hit $2bn in gross transaction value in December, four times the level of January 2020.

Overall, however, Opera's revenues for the year ended 31 December 2020 were down 6.7 per cent to $165.3m from $177m the year before.

Devotees of the brand will be relieved to hear the browser described as one of the company's "core businesses", according to co-CEO Song Lin, alongside Opera News (a "huge success" in Africa, according to the company).

The latest update, which also introduces freshens up themes and improves website readability, is due to hit the App Store at 1500 CET for new users. It will be rolled out gradually to existing customers. ®

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