Apple iPhone users can now download alternative web browsers to Safari from the iTunes App Store.

Despite Apple's previous policy of denying applications that duplicate functionality of its own software, four new web browsers for the device became available in the App Store this week. However, other popular browsers are not expected to follow suit.

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The new web browsers may offer features such as tabs and private browsing but are essentially just different user interface implementations of the built-in iPhone rendering engine - WebKit. So basically, the code in the new apps rendering the web pages is still Apple's.

The new web browsers range in price from free to $1.99 (£1.36) and bring some features missing from Apple's Safari App. Edge browser, a free app, removes Safari's address and navigation bars, leaving more screen real estate for the page you are browsing.

Another browser, WebMate:Tabbed Browser is priced at $0.99 (67p) and, as the name suggests, brings tabbed browsing to the iPhone by queuing up all the links you click on and then displaying them in an orderly fashion.

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The other two browsers, Incognito and Shaking Web, both $1.99 (£1.36), offer untraceable browsing and respectively compensate the small hand shaking for easier reading with the help of a sophisticated algorithm. The apps are not yet available in the UK iTunes app store.

Apple has been criticised before for group delays of certain application categories, and it seems that even the browsers in discussion have been submitted to the App Store from as early as October last year. Regardless, the new apps are a step ahead for Apple in becoming a more open platform for web browser developers, even though we shouldn't expect other big players such as Firefox or Opera being allowed to release browsers featuring their own rendering engines for the iPhone.

See also: Apple iPhone - a year in review