Matthew Miller from ZDNet loaded up Opera Mobile 9.5 on his HTC Advantage, a Windows Mobile device, and thinks it's even better than the iPhone's Safari browser. Why? Because he can select text, copy and paste, save passwords and even email individual images from a page. He says it's the best mobile browser he's ever used (even though Google Docs doesn't work correctly). It's definitely even more like a desktop browser than Apple's offering. You don't need to take his word for it—you can see for yourself in his video. [ZDnet via Into Mobile]
I don't think they chose for it to suck. I think they looked at mobile browsers (at the time) and improved the most frustrating things about them. Mainly the usability and aesthetic appeal. This seems like a logical place to start. Now they can add all of the features after they have jumped the first and biggest hurdle.
Other mobile browsers seem to pile on features, but they end up being harder to use and don't look as nice. It is like putting a big block in dodge neon where you have to get out of the car and run around it three times before it will start. Looks like crap and it isn't very convenient, but once you figure out how to jump through all the hoops, it is just as fast as a high end sports car.
The Safari Mobile analogy would look something like this: A Ferrari with a 4 cylinder engine. It looks awesome, is reliable, and very easy to use, but it can't go as fast as your suped-up neon. Except you are already 2 miles down the road before the neon driver even gets his car started. Plus you will have the option to upgrade to a bigger engine down the road, for free.