Ware of the Week: Opera Max

In our weekly series, Ware of the Week, we showcase our favourite organised lines of code from the world of mobile and desktop computing. In today’s edition, we look at an app that’s all about data saving and data management from the makers of Opera — Opera Max. If you missed our previous Ware of the Week winner, catch it below.

Read more: Ware of the Week: Prey Anti-Theft

You’ve probably heard the name “Opera” used around the web now and again. The company, once known for its iconic web browser that served mobile and PCs so well is redefining itself in the modern era. The Norwegian company is branching out a bit, much like Mozilla has been doing with its Firefox OS, developing apps for other usage cases. It’s recent development, dubbed Opera Max, is probably its most useful to date.

Behind the browser, Opera has a pretty kickass server network that compresses incoming traffic and sends it through to users’ devices in a much lighter package. It’s what the browser made famous during its initial years and now, the company is bringing this technology to smartphones and tablets beyond the confines of the browser.

What is it?

Opera Max, as I’ve explained, is a VPN (virtual private network) that passes through Opera’s network. The company compresses the data server-side and pops it back to the users of Opera Max in a much smaller data bundle. This means that the user is saving data and saving page loading time without much noticeable difference.

Opera claims that users can see a reduction of up to 50% in certain usage cases, which is rather staggering.

Opera Max new 1

Why it’s brilliant

If you’ve ever been stuck in a hotel, coffee shop or library with slow internet, you’ll feel my pain. My home internet line recently came under a substantial amount of stress due to a few undersea cable works off the coast of Africa. Essentially, that slowed web traffic in my house to a crawl. Opera Max allowed me to load pages that I couldn’t load a full quality.

It’s an incredibly slick idea. It’s particularly useful for those in developing countries too, where mobile data prices are still insanely expensive, or like I’ve suggested, for really slow internet connections.

Opera Max is genuinely good looking too, taking a page from Google’s Material Design book and crafting a masterpiece. There’s no noticeable lag when navigating the UI, and the new version allows users to switch on the VPN for WiFi and mobile data independently.

Users can monitor the amount of data each app is using with a nifty timeline-like vertically scrolling drawer. Side-scrolling will adjust the timeframe so users can gauge the damage each app’s responsible for. It’s a great data manager if not used as a VPN service too.

And when you are using it to its full potential, it saves a fair deal of data. Browsing an graphic intensive service like Instagram, Opera Max managed to shave close to 2MB off the 10MB bundle of images. It’s not quite the 50% saving claim, but it’s damn impressive. If you consider that many of the sites we visit on the web contain images or videos, it could definitely extend the amount of data you have, especially on a cellular data plan.

What still needs work

Whenever you’re using a VPN that you didn’t necessarily set up yourself, there’s always a question of privacy. I wouldn’t exactly do my internet banking while the VPN is operational, but it’s safe enough to use for Instagram, Facebook and the like. Opera says that it doesn’t snoop any data, but it pays to be paranoid in the digital world.

Of course, there’s also the question of reduced quality — which is actually the entire idea behind the app. You will see a drop in image and video quality, but the compression level can be adjusted to suit your preferences.

Opera Max new 2

But that’s practically it. It’s a very well put together app in its entirety and isn’t too flash either.

TL;DR

If you tend to overrun your data allowance or deal with a constantly slow connection, Opera Max is a great workaround. Of course, it isn’t a perpetual source of data, but it will make your available bits last a little bit longer. And if you don’t want to use the VPN, you can always use Opera Max as a data manager to see which apps are murdering your data. Nevertheless, it’s definitely a nice tool to have installed for emergencies.

Name: Opera Max
Version: 1.0.14 (current version 10.225)
Developer: Opera Software ASA
Platform: Android 4.0 or higher
Type: Data management/VPN
Price: Free
Download size: Around 10MB

Andy Walker
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