Apple announced significant changes to its App Store and business model in January -- and was largely met with rancor.
"A complete and total farce," said Spotify, the powerful digital music, podcast, and video service, which described Apple’s new plan as "extortion." Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said his company will contest “Apple's bad-faith compliance plan in District Court.” But browser maker Opera, which has been locked out of the iPhone platform and its billions of users?
“We are happy to see that users will soon be able to benefit from the choice among full engine browsers -- beyond what has been provided by Apple through Webkit," Jan Standal, vice president at Opera, told iMore. "We believe this will bring ... increased competition to the platform, resulting in better products for users to choose from."
Opera also noted that Apple’s decision will allow alternative browsers to more effectively compete for iOS users on better terms as a result of the requirements of the European Digital Markets Act (DMA).
The new plan essentially provides users with four main benefits. "More competition means a better browser on this platform," says Standal, "which historically has been lagging behind on browser quality versus Android and PC. Users will get access to new browser features that have not been able to be built with the Webkit component Apple provides. Increased security, as the monoculture of Webkit is broken and opening iOS up will mean users will be able to avoid situations where there are no secure browsers. Finally, the web will progress faster with better web standard support, making users less dependent on native applications."
Does Apple's plan help level the playing field in Europe?
In terms of market share, Opera has generally hovered in the single digits. At the moment, according to Statcounter’s data for January 2024, Opera browsers have 3.25% of the desktop browser market share worldwide (compared with 64.8% for Chrome, 12.95% for Edge, and 8.85% for Safari). It also has 2.15% of the mobile browser market share worldwide (compared with 64.7% for Chrome, 25.10% for Safari, and 4.38% for Samsung Internet).
As it stands, Opera believes its browsers already offer users a superior experience to Apple's Safari browsers. "Opera is already far ahead of Safari in many areas," says Stendal, "providing free AI service, free browser VPN and a native ad-blocker for more private and faster browsing. We also look forward to leveraging the control of the browser engine to enable new experiences that we will disclose when we ship them."
However, although the company expressed support for parts of Apple's plan, when asked if this plan was overdue, Standal replied, "Yes. It's extremely overdue. We shipped our first browser on iOS 14 years ago and have been awaiting this change ever since."
Standel also noted that Opera expected that these changes would soon be pushed out to other geographic markets shortly. "We consider this the first announcement from Apple in this case," said Standal, "and expect to see the rest of the world opening up soon as well so users outside of the EU are not left behind. "
Apple’s announcement, though, was also good timing for Opera, since it will be shipping a newly developed browser for iOS: Opera One for iOS, which will be “a new AI-powered browser built on its own engine for iOS in Europe.”
In Opera's press release, the compnay said, "The opening of the iOS ecosystem is a new opportunity for Opera to innovate further and usher in the innovative AI-centric browser experience iPhone and iPad users truly deserve with a full engine, AI-powered web browser. With the DMA entering into force in March 2024, this new browser will be presented in the months to come."
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Terry Sullivan has tested and reported on many different types of consumer electronics and technology services, including cameras, action cams, mobile devices, streaming music services, wireless speakers, headphones, smart-home devices, and mobile apps. He has also written extensively on various trends in the worlds of technology, multimedia, and the arts. For more than 10 years, his articles and blog posts have appeared in a variety of publications and websites, including The New York Times, Consumer Reports, PCMag, Worth magazine, Popular Science, Tom’s Guide, and Artnews. He is also a musician, photographer, artist, and teacher.