It seems that the engineers at Opera developed a version of Opera Mini that would run on the iPhone (and the iPod touch), but this browser will never see light of day because Apple rejected it from the App Store.
Mr. von Tetzchner said that Opera’s engineers have developed a version of Opera Mini that can run on an Apple iPhone, but Apple won’t let the company release it because it competes with Apple’s own Safari browser.
Well that sucks. It sucks because the Safari browser that comes bundled with the iPhone and the iPod touch is the weakest link of the whole platform because the applications is unstable and prone to just dumping you back onto the main screen. I do a lot of browsing on the iPod touch and there are some sites that are simply unusable through Safari as they crash the browser each and every time I browser them.
Side note #1: These sites never crash the browser on my Nokia E71, or Opera Mini on the E71, or IE and Opera on my Windows Mobile devices.
Side note #2: Site that seem to cause Safari on the iPhone/iPod touch to go belly up for me include Engadget, BBC News (the main page is also incredibly slow), CNN, IMDB ... there are dozens more. Some of these sites have "mobile" versions which work better, but I thought that the iPhone platform was supposed to bring me the full web, not what I was getting from a cellphone several years ago?
Opera Mini isn't for anyone wanting to browser securely (there's no end-to-end security), but for at least 95% of the web browsing I do (especially mobile browsing), that wouldn't matter anyway.
What I find shocking is that web reliability problems have plagued the iPhone and iPod touch since day one. You can walk into any Apple store, pick up the demo iPhone or iPod touch and feed it a website that'll eventually cause the browser to close up you. I also know that crash info is fed back to Apple regularly, so it's not as though they're unaware of these issues. And yet is seems that iPhone operating system v2.2 will concentrate on new features (rating apps when you uninstall them and emoticons ... oh woohoo ...) rather than core fixes. And Apple criticizes Microsoft for having its priorities all wrong.
[UPDATE 10/31/08: I had a brief email conversation with Tor Odland, Director of Corporate Communications at Opera Software who said that Opera "can't comment further on whether or not Opera Mini was rejected by Apple." Apple's NDA at work, I guess.
When asked about what feature iPhone users were missing out on this is what he had to say:
"There are some key features iPhone users "miss out on": Much faster surfing when outside wi-fi networks, up to 90% reduction in traffic data cost (a huge benefit while roaming, for example) and an easy-to-use but feature-packed Web experience overall. The browser is in constant development; we have a new version baking in the oven. On the user stats side, we now have 19 million monthly unique users of Opera Mini (in September). We expect that no other mobile browser can show similar user figures on a monthly basis."]