Surprise, Surprise: Apple Approves Opera Mini Browser for iPhone

What has the spring brought with it? A more open Apple? (NSDQ: AAPL) Yeah, sure, keep dreaming. But, at least one long awaited wish is coming true, sometime tonight or tomorrow: Apple has approved the first third-party browser for iPhone, to go beyond its crappy native Safari browser. And the winner is, again surprisingly, not Mozilla, but the scrappy Opera, for Opera Mini. It has gone live, apparently, in European iTunes app store, and will surface in U.S. later tonight or tomorrow. More details in the company release. Video of the browser demo embedded after the jump.

The whole point of Opera Mini is that it compresses pages — company says by as much as 90 percent — on Opera servers before loading them up in the user browser. And on a slower and/or a roaming connection, that a big bonus to have. The mobile browser is big in most countries except U.S.; the company says it has 100 million total Opera users, and exactly half of them, 50 million, use mobile browser Opera Mini.

So why did Apple approve Opera? Well, it doesn’t violate Apple’s SDK rules, in that it isn’t technically a browser in that it loads requested web pages directly. It uses Opera’s proxy servers to compress pages and then sends it to browsers. That’s a loophole that Opera is exploiting. Whichever way it happened, it happened. MobileCrunch has a hands on review of the new browser.

Updated: It is live in U.S. store as well.