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Wow, I wasn’t expecting this. Opera Software just announced that its Opera Mini mobile browser has been approved for Apple’s iPhone — it should go live in the App Store in the next 24 hours.

Up until now, I and other VentureBeat writers had basically assumed this was just a publicity stunt that makes Opera look good without actually having a chance for approval. Previously, Apple had only allowed competing browsers onto the iPhone if they used the Webkit format, which kept most of the major browsers off the device.

I’ve asked Opera for any insight they can offer about why Apple changed its mind, and whether this represents a broader policy change, but the company only offered this response: “Opera Mini gives users the best Internet experience on any mobile device and we were sure that Apple didn’t want to deny its users that experience.”

This certainly seems like a big contrast with recent Apple moves, which potentially push competing services and platforms, such as analytics and Adobe Flash, off the iPhone.

[Photo via IntoMobile]

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