Apple opens iPhone to rival browser app

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Apple has approved an iPhone application developed by Opera, which operates a rival web browser to its Safari, in a move that could ease fears over its plan to tighten up the rules for app developers.

The group yesterday approved Opera Mini for the iPhone and iPod Touch on the App Store. It is the first browser to be approved that does not use Safari software or Apple components.

The application, which currently has 50 million mobile users, will be available for free from today. The company said it offers speedy browsing on the internet as it compresses the data before sending content to the device.

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Gartner, said the approval would be encouraging to app developers. She added: "If Apple had rejected it without good reasons they would have received a lot of negative publicity over anti-competitiveness."

In the past Apple has refused to approve applications that provided similar functions to those already installed on its device. MobileSafari comes as standard on the iPhone and the iPod Touch.

Ms Milanesi said: "Apple is a controlled environment, which can be problematic for outside developers. Yet there is a huge plus as it feels more secure."

Yesterday's announcement came shortly after Apple tightened its rules governing those who want to develop apps for its devices. One of the biggest changes is Apple's demand that potential developers only use its programming tools. It made the move, it said, to improve the quality of apps on its store.

Apple has received a lot of attention over its decision not to support Adobe's Flash programming. Some believe the latest move was introduced to stop developers converting code written with Flash into code that can run on the iPhone. Adobe released a software package that can convert Flash yesterday, but apps it writes will be banned under Apple's new restrictions.