Opera plans to release the third version of the Opera Mini mobile phone browser today, adding features that aim to boost its social networking capabilities and improve functionality overall.

Opera Mini 3.0 integrates with the camera included in many phones so that users can easily upload photos to social networking sites. The feature works with many services including Flickr and MySpace and takes advantage of the sites' existing methods for uploading photos.

Typically, such websites include a box where users can browse through their files for the photo they want to upload. When Opera Mini 3.0 users click on the box, the phone automatically activates the camera. The browser then asks the users if they want to take and upload a photo and confirms the upload after the users take the photo.

A couple of other offerings are already available to phone users for uploading photos to sites such as Flickr, but they typically involve a separate piece of software that users must download to their phones. For example, Shozu phone software can automatically upload cameraphone photos to Flickr. Earlier this year Sony Ericsson said it would start loading software on to three of its phones to enable easy photo uploading to Google's Blogger. Flickr also has its own mobile offering that lets phone users email photos to their Flickr page.

Opera Mini 3.0 also includes a couple of other new features. The browser will automatically collapse potentially long lists of menu items on websites so that users don't have to scroll through them. Users can click on a plus sign at the top of the page to expand the menu.

The new browser also allows users to subscribe to and receive RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, and it now supports encryption, so that phone users can securely access banking information or shop online.

The Opera Mini phone software works together with servers, hosted by Opera or a third party such as a mobile operator, to improve the mobile browsing experience. When users visit websites, the remote servers strip down the size of the sites, making them load quicker and look better on the small screens of mobile phones.

Opera Mini is available for free from Opera but some operators are starting to load the software onto phones before they sell them. T-Mobile includes a self-branded version of Opera Mini on a few phones and Spain's Telefonica recently began working with Opera and handset makers to load a Telefonica-branded version of the browser for phones that are part of its Nevega mobile web service.

Around eight million unique users have downloaded the Opera Mini client from Opera and Opera's servers are on track to serve out a billion web pages this year, said Christen Krogh, vice-president for engineering at Opera. Opera Mini was designed to work on any Java-enabled phone and Opera has tested and verified 500 compatible handsets, he said.