App Store Folies: Adding Insult To Removal

The fallout from Apple’s decision to remove all Google Voice apps continues today, with independant developer Riverturn trying explain the unexplainable that is Apple’s removal of these apps. AT&T was once again conveniently pinned as the fall guy, as they were for the SlingPlayer Mobile fiasco. Ultimately, this is Apple’s storefront and they are responsible for what’s available or not available on the virtual shelves. Not only are consumers deprived of truly useful apps, but it also impacts companies such as Riverturn, who invest heavily into the development of apps. This is not a lower level management decision, but you would think it was given the non-response from Apple, when rightly contacted by the developer of VoiceCentral. Repeated emails going unanswered by Apple, but at least they left a voicemail. The developers at Riverturn were finally able to discuss the removal with Richard from Apple and the conversation went something like this:

Richard: “I’m calling to let you know that VoiceCentral has been removed from the App Store because it duplicates features of the iPhone.”

Me: “I don’t understand that reasoning. By that logic wouldn’t apps like Textfree, Skype, fring, or iCall be considered duplicates?”

Richard: “I can’t discuss other apps with you.”

Me: “It’s not the apps themselves I want to discuss just the lack of consistency in rule enforcement.”

Richard: “I can only say that yours duplicates features of the iPhone and was causing confusion in the user community. It’s against our policy.”

Me: “So what has changed that it is now against policy? It has been in the store for the last 4 months with no problem. There wasn’t a problem for the 1.5 months prior to that when you were ‘reviewing’ it. And this didn’t come up with any of the updates we submitted after it was already in the store.”

Richard: “I can’t say – only that yours is not complying with our policy.”

Me: “Can you tell me what portions of the app were duplicate features?”

Richard: “I can’t go into granular detail.”

Me: “Is there something we can change or alter in order to regain compliance and get back in the Store?”

Richard: “I can’t say.”

Me: “Well if we can’t figure out the issue then how will we know whether to resubmit the app. And how will we know whether to invest in any other development efforts? Future apps could be impacted.”

Richard: “I can’t help you with that”

Me: “So how do we know whether it is still viable for us to consider Apple a partner if this is how the scenario plays out. If you were in my shoes would you continue to invest blood, sweat, tears and money in something that can be killed off at any moment without your say so?”

Richard: “I understand your point but I can’t help you with that.”

Me: “Surely someone there at Apple asked you to make this phone call. Can I speak with that person about this?”

Richard: “I am the only one you can speak with on this subject.”

Me: “There has to be someone there I can actually have a back and forth with so that we can make some strategic decisions on whether this partnership makes any sense.”

Richard: “You can only talk to me”

Me: “Nothing personal since I know you have just been tasked to make this call but we aren’t really talking here. There’s no back and forth and you aren’t allowed to answer any questions. Can I implore you to ask your managers if there is anyone who would be willing to speak with me and have a real conversation? I don’t care if it needs to be off the record or we need to sign another top-secret NDA but we really have nothing to go on at this point. We will need to make business decisions on whether it makes any sense to continue developing.”

Richard: “I will relay that to my managers.”

It’s understandable that AT&T is looking out for their business, but it’s Apple who should be looking out for developers and ultimately their consumers. In our estimation, they’ve failed on both counts. They control what happens in their App Store. We all know why these apps were removed, yet we’re supposed to believe it’s because “it duplicates features of the iPhone“.

We’re all for the secrecy that shrouds new products, but generic responses that attempt to defend an indefensible App Store policy is making them more like the company that resides in Redmond or perhaps even worse.

[Riverturn via Daring Fireball]

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