Saturday, August 09, 2008

Desperadoes: iPhone App-Style

ever since the launch of the Apple iTunes App Store for the iPhone, Apple has straddled the line between being an agnostic content aggregator and a fascistic controller of content that makes the Chinese government look like the Wild West. Case in point is that I now have not one, not two, but three separate applications on my iPhone that have since been removed from the Apple store for further downloads, with no explanation. Let's have a look at these insidious apps, shall we, and see what evil they have wrought.

First up, Tapulous' Friend Book. Tapulous are the makers of the Twitter iPhone client, Twinkle, that was easily one of the most popular Jailbroken applications before they went all legit. In addition, they make Tap Tap Revenge, an iPhone enabled version of Dance Dance Revolution. Friend Book delivers photo dialing, powerful contact search, but best of all, Handshake: select a contact record, hold two iPhones running Friend Book together, and shake. Voila, the contact is sent to the other iPhone. Cool, huh? It's gone. In all fairness, Apple is innocent on this one; Tapulous pulled it down, as it was not up to their expected quality. But I'm still photo dialing away...

Next, Box Office. A simple app that pulls down the movies playing near you, allows you to browse buy title or theater, shows the current showtimes and Rotten Tomatoes score, and even links to let you buy tickets. Free, powerful, helpful, and leverages the geolocation ability of the iPhone. And removed from the store with no explanation.

Finally, PhoneSaber. This app was a lark to me: it leveraged the motion sensing of the iPhone to let you swing a virtual light saber back and forth, complete with correct sound effects for the movement. Free, it was fun, but to watch the transformative effects on non tech folks, you would think it was Apple's best ad. But, alas, you can't have it. Why? Because the license holder for Star Wars content on mobiles objects. As Obi Wan said, "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened."

Look, I'm all in favor of Apple trying to maintain quality, but you can't do it both ways. My iPhone continues to work perfectly with these apps on it; yours would, too. So this either needs to be an open marketplace, or a closed one with clear rules. But this halfway stuff is what makes people crazy and drives them to strip the DRM and set up Jailbreaking all over again. Even worse, now comes word that Apple may have the ability to remotely remove apps from your phone, even if you've installed them.

Apple, it's time to lead, follow, or get out of the way.


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