Opera Mini Denied! Apple Disallows Browser Competitor for iPhone

To no one's surprise, but perhaps to a few's disppointment, Apple may have denied entry to the iTunes App Store to Opera Mini. Says the New York Times (via Daring Fireball):

Mr. von Tetzchner said that Opera’s engineers have developed a version of Opera Mini that can run on an Apple iPhone, but Apple won’t let the company release it because it competes with Apple’s own Safari browser.

Opera doesn't state what the terms of rejection were, be it "duplicative functionality" like PodCaster, they dared touch Steve Jobs' sacred dock, or whether they were trying to parse JavaScript against the terms of the SDK. Whatever the reason, however, there remains uncertainty for developers and a deafening lack of justification from Apple. (Perhaps even more ironic, given Valley Wag's assertion that Opera was once considered by Apple to be the iPhone browser!)

For those not familiar with Opera Mini, on the Windows Mobile, Palm, and even Blackberry platforms that have been woefully under-served by the likes of Blazer and Pocket IE, Opera Mini has become one of the first things installed in a desperate attempt to get at least something closer to the actual internet on their devices (though this is changing with the likes of Android, and devices such as the Blackberry Thunder). Opera has also found a niche in embedded systems (e.g. video game platforms).

However, Opera Mini pre-crunching all data on their own servers before shipping it to handsets sets off a "Gibsonian response" in my central security core, so while it wouldn't appeal to me on the iPhone, I would prefer to reject it myself rather than have Apple do so perfunctorily on my behalf.

What about you? Anyone seriously bummed there won't be Opera for the iPhone any time soon?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter, App.net, Google+.

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There are 39 comments. Add yours.

Gene says:

Is apple scared of competition? Having a closed platform isn't good for the consumer. If Opera Mini behaves and doesn't kill the iphone in terms of resources, etc, it should be allowed. It seems like monopoly laws or somethings should prevail here!

mr. Hi-Definition says:

I like Safari just as much as the next guy but this is just ridiculous Apple. You really need to let Opera develop their browser for the iPhone as well. I go to different websites and Safari crashes everytime when I'm inputting text. I am really getting tired of closed platforms now because they have way too many rules that hurt the consumers while benefiting the partners of Apple.
Just disgraceful...

jamesus says:

Random thought here, but apps that have browsing within the app basically call an instance of Safari within it, right? If not, doesn't this duplicate functionality?

ethan says:

Considering Safari CRASHED THREE TIMES ON ME TODAY, I'm really ticked off at Apple right now. I've decided they're too controlling, and the iPhone/iPod is probably the only apple branded device in my household.

carlhancock says:

I know another company that also had a monopoly on the browser....
They were called Microsoft and they eventually got hauled into court.
Apple needs to be careful, the more successful the iPhone is and the more marketshare they garner for mobile website traffic, the greater the chance they can get called out on their anti-competitive behavior and dragged into court.

mr. Hi-Definition says:

@ Ethan
Trust me I know what your talking about. I go to the same websites everyday and 2 of them crash on me every single day. It gets so annoying that I have to just wait until I get to work or home so I can actually browse those sites. If Apple doesn't put out a fix for this soon, I know there are people who will switch services or phones. The iPhone is a great phone and a great platform but it's definitely has it's flaws as well.

Hmm says:

u see, most people don't know about all these little problems with the iPhone until AFTER they buy it. By that time it's too late. You can't return the iPhone due to apple's strict policy.
The iphone is my first Apple product and my last. Jobs can go to u know where.

cherryhead25 says:

What does Apple care what I put on my phone after I paid for it??? I have the same problem as Ethan and Mr. HiDef with a couple websites I visit daily. Apple needs to give more freedom to developers, it can only make THEIR product better.

Jay says:

Anti competitive apple? No way! Really?!

mr. Hi-Definition says:

@ cherryhead25
I knew there were more people who go to sites that require a lighter browser like Opera or Skyfire to browse them efficiently. It sucks that Apple reps probably read these blogs, see all the problems the customers are experiencing, and yet they do nothing about it. This is a serious issue... I don't think most people who own iPhones have had problems with the Safari browser, but I do believe that enough have to make Apple open their eyes to do something about the problem. I am a power-user so I use my iPhone everyday for tasks that range from simple-extremly difficult. I don't expect the iPhone to be perfect, but when Apple won't even allow a 3rd party software company to assist them with memory allocation issues that they are having with their own browser by porting their 3rd party browsers to the iPhone as a simple alternative to using Safari, I don't know where Apple is going down the road. This just screams "foul ball" to me and I hope that other users (especially the ones in CA that are near Apple's head quarters) will complain out these simple to fix issues and make sure they are heard. If I'm not mistaken, is this not one of the biggest reasons we blog?

Ted says:

I would like to know what the URLs for these websites that people are saying crash on them every day.

thekevinmonster says:

I agree with Ted. I also agree that it's a bit ridiculous to reject applications because they duplicate functionality. I understand that Apple does not want someone one-upping them in terms of their bundled apps. Then again, it didn't really prevent the Linux Distro phenomenon (15 notepad programs? A NOTEPAD? you type text in it and hit save)....

ethan says:

@Ted
Engadget.com and IMDB.com were the two that were kicking me off into the home window today. I don't think it's the site, I think it's the browser. This happened before with my first 3G iphone, then they swapped me out at the apple store. It happened today on wifi and 3G. I restarted the phone and it seemed to fix my issue, but this is definitely not the first time.
I had Opera Mini on my Sprint Katana II before I got the iPhone, and it's a WONDERFUL browser. It gave me full web on a little crappy phone screen.
I'm not super pissed at Apple, I just wish they wouldn't be so closed on the app store. Might give me a reason to Jailbreak the phone.

Rene Ritchie says:

We'll do a TiPb Answers for why MobileSafari crashes sometime soon. Bottom line, however, consumer expectation doesn't always match technological reality, and Apple makes this worse with their lofty advertising promises.
Just today I was using a WebApp that didn't support Mac Safari, so I had to use Firefox 3, and it crashed without saving half my work. Hours lost. Firefox's fault? The WebApp's? My computer's? A bit of all three?
With regards to monopoly and anti-competitive behavior -- remember, Apple doesn't sell the iPhone as though it were an open computing platform. They sell it as though it were an appliance. Do I wish I could install DVD player software on my Nintendo Wii? Sure, but Nintendo says no and their firmware kills any homebrew. Why? Close platform, and their current marketshare of video game consoles probably dwarfs the iPhone's of smartphones.
Apple is business, not an philanthropy, at unfortunately in the US, shareholders tend to sue their companies if they don't protect their revenue streams. Everyone wants to be the browser platform for the cloud wave of computing (it's why Google made Chrome and Android, why Microsoft is making Azure and pushing iE 8, etc.). Apple wants that mobile space as well.

Stephen says:

Opera would have never been considered seriously for the iPhone by Apple no matter what ValleyWag says. I will point out they they have been very wrong on lots of stuff. Do you truly believe that Apple would have anything but Safari on an iPhone from day one?
Opera mini is a very insecure browser anyway. I would not want to trust my banking on it as it tunnels in the clear thru Opera's own servers.
There is a clear SDK violation in regard to JavaScript here as well as a duplication (if you like that one). No great lose, I have Opera mini on my Blackberry and it is no great app, especially when comparing it to Safari.

Rene Ritchie says:

Whoops, forgot to mention that the number one way people attack computers (hack) these days is via browser exploits, typically JavaScript (also Flash, Java, .Net, etc. though none of these are currently concerns on the iPhone -- QuickTime being the only similar exploit).
Apple specifically prohibits code interpreters, including all of the above, in the SDK. While I'm sure they don't want duplicative Apps, and that's annoying to say the least for those of us who appreciate choice and feel competition creates better results for everyone -- security on an iPhone that knows all your information and where you are to GPS precision is a very real concern.
If Safari has a vulnerability, Apple is responsible and Apple has to fix it. If Opera on the iPhone has a zero day exploit, Apple will still be responsible but will have to rely on Opera to fix it. That's a lot of exposure for both Apple and users there, and Apple is nothing if not constantly sued, and overly legally defensive...

miked says:

I just recently switched from Windows to Apple because of the stability of the OS, but it the iphone on the other hand is wrought with instabilities. Safari is worthless on the iphone...too many crashes. By allowing Opera Mini, I think Safari will improve in part due to competition with the Opera.

cherryhead25 says:

@ Ted
The front page of the BBC news runs like crap for me. Delayed swiping and double tap zooming and many crashes. Once I go into a country page it runs fine if I can get there before it crashes.
@ ethan
Yes agreed, engadget crashes quite a bit. I have to let it load completely, take a deep breath and then browse :)
@ Mr. HiDef
Amen.

dloveprod says:

Apple must have a few politicians in their pocket, if Microsoft did this all hell would break loose on them.

Jesh says:

third party apps will never run all well as the ones apple integrates. I unjailbroke because I had poor functionallity. Whenever I have the choice I use apple integrated apps over third party ones. Apple wants quality not choices. If you want choices get a windows mobile phone and see how bad that sucks! Lol

ierik says:

uhm you guys have engadget crashing on you?
I have some news for you:
Http://i.engadget.com
Http://i.engadgetmobile.com
Http://i.tuaw.com
I don't agree with blocking apps, but safari is the best available, nobody would have used opera. Lame name btw.

Anna says:

I have complete faith in Safari as compared to any other apps.
http://www.safaribrowserwindows.com

mikenyc2 says:

Guys and Gals. I think we are getting off-topic here. The issue here is not whether Safari has problems. Or whether Opera is better than Safari.
The issue is that Apple has a Monopolistic attitude here. It's my way or the highway.
They are afraid of losing control if someone comes up with a better e-mailer, or browser or podcaster.
This whole issue begs of a class action suit by iPhone customers.
As a customer I am entitled to get the best apps that can be built for the iPhone. There should be no need to jailbreak the iPhone. Apple should allow ALL software that is not malicious in nature.
Let the market speak for itself.
Now who is a lawyer here???

Guy says:

Oh, they can just release Opera in Cydia ... No probs at all :)

Ivoryplum says:

What frustrates me is that I PAYED FOR THE PHONE!
It is my property, I should be able to do what I want with it.
If it was leased or something, then I'd understand all of these limitations...but its gotten to the point where its just ridiculous for Apple to be rejecting all of these apps. I know if I was an app developer, I wouldnt want to pour sweat and money into a project with the uncertainty if it was going to be accepted or not.
Why do you think there are tooooons of lame apps in the app store that play it "safe" . Because developers are too scared to actually "develop" for the iphone. Dont get me wrong, there are tons of great apps in the app store, but the iPhone has so much capibilities that arent being utilized properly.
Now I know everyone on here knows all of this, but it seems as if Apple doesnt. Or they do and just dont care (yep).
Its fine that the apps go through processes and tests to get in the app store to make sure they arent melicious or unsafe, but the fact that they dont allow anything that competes with them just boggles my mind.
Its my hard earned money that I spent on this iPhone and I want to do whatever I want with it. I shouldnt have a company telling what I can and what I cant have on my phone.
Straight up.

frog says:

Safari is part of the iPhone experience. Opera has no need/place on this platform.

thekevinmonster says:

ivory: you did pay for it, and you can do what you want. For example, you can jailbreak it. Apple can also release software to reverse your jailbreak. Apple does not have to make it EASY for you to do what you want, and I don't think they even have to let you do what you want.
(Are you violating the DMCA when you jailbreak an iPhone? I would assume not or else Apple would try to shut down the dev teams that do it.)
However, while Apple can apparently release a phone where they can control the content installed on it (just like videogame console manufacturers can), that doesn't mean they should.
Note that Opera Mini uses off-site rendering, and the actual client doesn't render the website the way Safari does. Just to.. say that.

coop says:

No surprise there. What has to happen for Apple to be taken to task for this sort of thing?
An Anti-trust suit? Go for it Opera!
Oh and, frog, "Safari is part of the iPhone experience."
Did you enjoy drinking the kool-aid? Just asking...

spunup says:

Another Jobs douche move...
What a surprise!!! I can't wait for this phone to be declared a "compuing platform".
Does Stevie remember what happened to Microsoft?
Competition is a good thing.

iphonemilk says:

Nope.
I'm glad they denied it. Keep knockin em down Steve Jobs! My Hero! =) Steve Jobs for President 2008.
Btw.. did it ever occur to you whining people that it could raise security concerns using another browser? also what about the integration. Right now with Safari you can directly open up the email app and email links to people and also use the shortcut function and save the icon to your "springboard" stuff like that. it's all integrated with the iPhone.
Point being, even if you got your PRECIOUS opera or (insert browser here) would you still get the same integration into the rest of the iPhone OS??

iphonemilk says:

oh and another thing... I'm sick and tired of people saying "competition is a good thing" Hey guess what? it works the OTHER WAY AROUND TO, Newsflash people.
If it IS in fact such a good thing then Microsoft, Blackberry and others should be developing amazing things then right? cool! go buy one once they Make it! but so far?? all i see is RIM and others trying to copy off Apple and Steve jobs... so honestly i'm SICK of it. Sick of listening to you people rant on about competition.
Apple brought in the new product THEY are the one's spicing up the game. NOW the ball is on your court Microsft, it's on YOUR court RIM, your move next.

Likeabite says:

@ 25...That's like saying no other apps have a place on the iPhone platform because they are not a part of the experience. People want choices and Apple's anti competetiveness is worse than Microsoft's.

Tunnelrunner says:

Not necessarily taking sides here (not even saying that I support putting Opera on the iPhone) -- but mobile Safari DOES crash a lot. For someone who frequents the desktop (ie: "real" version) version of Facebook, crashes are an everyday occurance.
If Apple wants to stick with Safari, fine, but make the damn thing MORE STABLE.

frog says:

Can someone translate the "enjoy drinking the kool-aid" to plain English for me? I'm not American, went straight over my head LOL

fassy says:

Kool-Aid is a popular fruit-flavored drink. The phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" is a reference to the Jonestown mass suicide of 1978, where over 900 members of the People's Temple drank cyanide laced grape drink after leader Jim Jones' call to "revolutionary suicide." Since then, "drinking the Kool-Aid" has become shorthand for when a person or group of people do or believe something obviously against their best interests (or sometimes just against an objective reading of the facts) due to a charismatic leader.
It has become an especially popular phrase in technology flame wars, where mac/windows users will toss it around, with Jobs or Gates presumed to be in the Jim Jones role.
Ironically enough, the Jonestown suicides used a Kool-Aid competitor, but Kool-Aid entered the pharsebook.

stldirty says:

yea the kool-aid comment went over my head too.

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