Last year Opera introduced Coast, a simple mobile browser designed specifically for the iPad, and today it brought the same unique experience to the iPhone. Coast is a little different than Chrome or Safari, and streamlines browsing by organizing shortcuts to sites on menu pages like they're apps. Think of it like your phone's home screen, except exclusively for the internet. It's intentionally pretty barebones, and doesn't have much besides those site icons -- so no address bar or back button. While the stripped down browser may sound a bit restricting at first, we've been testing the iPhone app for a few days and have found it makes getting to your favorite sites a lot easier.
Coast for iPhone hands-onSee all photos
The app comes preloaded with shortcuts to a few popular sites like Gmail and YouTube, but gets much more useful once you start adding your own must-view pages (we hear Engadget is pretty awesome). Instead of using a traditional address bar, swiping down from the top of your home screen launches a blank page where you can type a topic. As you input letters, Coast starts to suggest sites you might want to check out using colorful tiles. Our search for "phones" for instance, quickly brought up several popular mobile pubs. The app tries to steer you towards sites, but you can perform an old-fashioned search result page as well. If you see a page you like, you can tap on the icon to launch it, or press and hold to pin it to one of three menu pages. It's a simple process that makes it easy to create the ultimate collection of news sites or cat grooming blogs. Everything can be synced using iCloud, so you'll have the same bookmarks on your iPad as well.
While the experience is pretty limited, Coast does have a few tricks up its sleeve. Inside launched pages you can press and hold to share a story with a friend or take a screenshot. If you're feeling really adventurous, you can save a photo from the web to use as a background image throughout the app. Open tabs are also handled a little differently than you might be used to. Pages you've previously visited are displayed in a format reminiscent of Apple's multitasking feature rather than a list, with full screens you can swipe to. We found seeing the whole site made navigating back in time a lot easier. When you're done with something for good, it can be closed just like an iOS app, by swiping it off the top of the page. Everything is super fast and responsive, probably thanks to the browser's stripped down nature.
If you're used to something like Safari and typing in URLs everyday, Coast's simple interface and shortcuts can be a bit jarring at first. After using the app for a while, however, we noticed how few mobile sites we actually go to on regular basis. Once you've come to terms with that fact, a speed dial for your faves makes a ton of sense. Overall, we found the app makes it easier to get to the places you love faster -- earning Coast a permanent place on our home screen. Curious to give it a try for yourself? You can snag the app for iPhone and iPad now from the App Store.