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Opera Mini on iPhone: Finally, Apple!

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Apple today approved the much-coveted (and my personal favourite mobile browser), Opera Mini, in the App Store, the online virtual "store" that users can browse through and purchase applications for their iPhones, iPod touches, and now iPads.

But what's so special about Opera Mini? It's a lightweight mobile web browser that's already gained much ground on other mobile phones, as a quick and cheap way of accessing full websites on a handheld device.

In fact, long before the iPhone came along with its "revolutionary" mobile browser (mobile Safari, as it's called), Opera Mini allowed users from as far afield as India to South Africa to connect to the Internet; some say it democratised the web by allowing people who would not be able to access the 'Net otherwise.

The controversy comes from the fact that Apple's approval of the Mini browser rides a thin line on their vague approval policy; from the outset, Opera Mini appears to provide competition to Apple's own native browser, mobile Safari.

However, Opera ASA, the makers of this cool piece of software, have very carefully designed and run through their approval process for Apple. Instead of accessing actual HTML web pages, Opera Mini processes web content through their own proxy servers, which render a binary file that's sent back to the browser, which then interprets and renders the content on your screen.

This results in 90% faster load times, and significant bandwidth reductions (effectively making it cheaper to browse the web).

Be warned, however, that browsing with the Opera Mini app is not going to be just like the experience on mobile Safari. Because Mini displays a binary web file, and not actual HTML (the markup language used to generate web pages), certain things like animated images will display as static. Oh, and forget viewing Adobe Flash content — you really think Apple would've approved it if Opera allowed Flash, when Apple's oh so against it?

The Opera Mini app is available today from the App Store, either via iTunes on your computer, or from the App Store on your mobile Apple device.

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