Released today on the App Store, Coast is a new browser by Opera based on iOS’ WebKit engine and built exclusively for the iPad. Coast is, according to Opera, “the result of its designers tossing out 20 years of preconceptions about what a browser should be”, as it tries to reimagine how a tablet browser should be in 2013 without toolbars, buttons, and URL fields but with a focus on gestures and web content.
The Opera team writes:
The iPad is nearly buttonless; why shouldn’t the apps for it be? Elements such as back and forward buttons are gone from Coast. All navigation is done by swiping the way you naturally would on an iPad – just like in a good iPad app. A single button takes you to the home screen, and another shows the sites you have recently visited – that’s about it for buttons in Coast.
When using touch-based navigation, small buttons that work on a regular computer don’t work well on a tablet. It’s not about just enlarging already existing elements; it’s about making the design interesting and uncluttered.
Essentials such as website security are handled in the background, with can’t-miss warnings when a suspicious site is accessed and extensive info on site reputation.
While I personally don’t need another iPad browser as I’m fine with Chrome, I think that Coast shows some interesting ideas and approaches. Sites are organized in Home screens, and Coast’s default behavior is to save a site’s “apple-touch-icon” file (the same one that Reeder uses) as a preview. Website icons can be rearranged like app icons on the iOS Home screen, and the effect is quite nice. You can’t personalize the background photo, and that’s too bad because I don’t like the built-in one.
There are some good animations in the app. You can delete icons and open pages by swiping up and putting them into a delete area that quickly bounces when it deletes content; icons flip to reveal a website’s homepage, and Google search is always accessible by swiping down on the Home screen. My favorite detail is how the dot indicators for open pages come up from the bottom of the screen when you open the “tab view” (they are not called tabs in Coast – in fact, there are no text-based menu labels at all).
I don’t think that Coast will revolutionize iPad web browsing because, admittedly, Safari offers a superior feature set for the average user with iCloud Tabs, the upcoming iCloud Keychain, Reader, Reading List, and more. But Coast does have some intriguing ideas and it’s worth checking out.