After three weeks of waiting to see if Apple would approve the application, the Opera Mini app has finally been released and promptly sailed to the top of iPhone app download chart, topping a million downloads with hours of its release. Due to its strict guidelines on application approval and Apple’s interests in the usage of its own embedded browser, Mobile Safari, many questioned whether Opera Mini would become available at all. After a lengthy approval process it finally has been approved, so now for the first time Apple faces browser competition on the iPhone.
A long standing developer in the internet browser market, Opera have a very small share in the traditional browser market. In the emerging world of mobile browsers however, it is a different story with Opera Mini being the most popular browser around. With the huge iPhone market now available to them and no competition to speak of besides Mobile Safari, Opera’s dominance of this market has the potential to sky rocket.
A key reason for Opera’s success so far is its speed. Typically around three time as fast at browsing than the competition, Opera manages this advantage by doing the data crunching on Opera’s own servers and sending the compressed data back to the phone, unlike other browsers which use the phone itself to receive and compute all the data. The difference when using a dedicated wireless network is not so great but when out and about using 2G or 3G networks the improvement is considerable. The fact that less data is being received by the phone also lessens the blow for those paying roaming internet charges.
Opera submitted the app for approval to Apple in mid march and it took three weeks for it to be approved. In the interim there was much debate throughout the blogging network and media about whether the app would be approved in light of its threat to Safari’s monopoly in the iPhone browser market. In the past Apple has used a clause in its terms and conditions prohibiting apps which “duplicate existing functionality” as a basis for rejecting apps and many believed Opera Mini would not be allowed on this basis.
An aggressive publicity drive by Opera, which included issuing press releases to coincide with the application submission and placing a prominent timer on its website to observe how long the approval
process would take ensured that all eyes were on Apple which may have helped the process.
For now then Opera has won the battle but not the war. There is a long road ahead driving in to Safari’s established user base. There are also privacy concerns about how Opera handles users data on its own servers and the prospect of advertising to come in the future.