Opera Mini browser for iPhone?

Last week Opera Software announced it would show a sneak peek of its Mini browser for iPhone--with or without Apple's approval. We follow up.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Content strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
2 min read
Opera Mini on iPhone
Did Opera really make an iPhone browser? Opera Software

"Opera Mini" and "iPhone" are two words that fit uncomfortably together given the current state of the mobile industry, yet as Opera Software announced last week, it has combined them just the same.

Moreover, the maker of desktop and mobile browsers for multiple platforms has been demonstrating the iPhone-capable browser at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Opera has been secretive and stingy about it, too, forbidding journalists from taking photos and refusing to show the product outside of their convention floor booth.

In addition to raising flags about the program's stability, Opera's secretive treatment also raises questions. For instance, why would Opera go to the trouble of concocting an iPhone-ready browser when Apple routinely smacks down application submissions that compete with its native Safari browser? And even more significantly, why would Opera adapt Opera Mini, a browser meant to run on Java phones, instead of Opera Mobile, the full-fledged Web browser designed for capable smartphones like high-end Nokias and the HTC Touch?

The choice to run with Mini is an attempt to dive through a loophole in Apple's SDK, Opera told CNET. Opera Mini is backed by a proxy server, which means that the browser gets compressed versions of Web pages via Opera's servers. In more technical terms, there's no code being executed or scripts bring run in Opera Mini. Every Web page request is projected, in a sense, through Opera's filter, instead of being actively generated from and delivered to the browser the way it is on Safari, which does run its own Web code.

Although Opera might have landed on a workaround, we're not wasting too many brain cells wondering if Opera's iPhone experiment will actually lead to an Apple-vetted app. Last we heard, Opera had not submitted the app for iTunes consideration. Where we stand, Opera Mini on iPhone is a show piece designed to shine a spotlight on Apple's fierce stance toward competition, and to push the envelope.

Not that we'd mind some choice in the browser sphere. Opera impressed us in 2009 with a slick beta redo of both Opera Mini and Opera Mobile browsers, for Java phones (works on some Android and BlackBerry models) and Symbian and Windows smartphones, respectively. We wouldn't mind trying either of Opera's browsers--with their nearly identical interfaces--on iPhone.