Review by Andrew Kameka on Thursday April 24, 2014.
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As far as alternative browsers on iOS go, Opera's Coast stands out as a browser based on stripping down everything in order to deliver the web and nothing more. There's no convoluted settings page, no complicated features, and not many bells and whistles. There are websites and a few tools to browse through them. Whether that's a good or bad thing is hard to say.
Coast has been available on the iPad for a while now and it launched on the iPhone today. Like its larger counterpart, Coast is a browser developed by Opera that puts the browsing experience to the bare minimum. There are no UI buttons because everything is handled by gestures. Swiping down from top to bottom brings up a tiles of someone's favorite sites or a search bar. Users can edit this page to show their nine favorite bookmarks or swipe right to reveal more pages of nine tiles. Dragging down then reveals more suggestions for common sites and the keyboard pops up to go to a specific URL or search.
When viewing a specific page, swiping right goes back in history, swiping left goes to forward. Coast stores history as tiles so you can browse that more easily by tapping the bottom right icon. That's also where you can switch between tabs or share a URL through email and social channels. Once you've mastered these basic gestures, you've pretty much figured out how to use Coast. The benefit to this approach is that the browser becomes simplified and it's easy to move from one place to another after the learning curve runs its course. However, sometimes, it feels like more work. Why drag down twice to get to a search field when traditional browsers already have a search field you can tap and start typing?
The swipe has become a natural part of navigation in mobile devices, so for many people, that will be more comfortable than tapping a button. Opera Coast delivers a gesture-friendly browser to the iPhone. Others might want to stick with what they know. Coast has appeal because the bookmarks it stores as tiles makes getting to your favorite sites very easy and once you're there, the nearly-full screen removes much of the distraction found in modern browsers. If you are willing to spend 5 minutes getting familiar with a few gestures and want a fast browser that synchronizes favorites between an iPad and iPhone, Coast is available in the App Store now.
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.