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Opera readies mini browser for iPhone

Browser hopeful for the iPhone to debut at next week's 2010 Mobile World Congress as an alternative to Safari. But will Apple give it a thumbs-up?

Opera Mini
Opera Mini Opera

Watch out Safari. There's a new browser looking for a spot on the iPhone.

Norway-based Opera announced Wednesday that it will unveil its new Opera Mini 5 browser for the iPhone at next week's 2010 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The developer of the desktop Opera Web browser is touting Opera Mini as faster than Apple's Safari, thanks to its use of compression. Opera said it compresses pages by up to 90 percent before they're sent to the mobile device.

Opera Mini 5 will also offer such features as tabbed browsing, a password manager, and Speed Dial, a splash page that displays thumbnail images linked to your favorite sites. An Opera link feature will let you synchronize your Speed Dial page and bookmarks between the mini and desktop browsers. Opera has already found a home and some success on Java-based cell phones such as the BlackBerry and on Android smartphones.

The Opera Mini for iPhone demo at the Mobile World Congress will only be open to partners and journalists with press passes. But the company said it will also show all visitors the latest beta releases of Opera Mini and Opera Mobile for other portable devices.

But this all could be a moot point. An Opera spokesperson told me that the company has yet to make any submissions to the Apple App store. When asked if getting approval from Apple might be a problem, the spokesperson said the company hopes Apple "will not deny their users a choice in Web browser experience."

Yet given the approval process at the App store and Apple's reluctance to okay apps that duplicate an existing function, will Opera Mini face an uphill battle for the iPhone market?