By now, we're all familiar with Apple's culture of control. Particularly when it comes to the App Store, the crew from Cupertino is famous for its frequent rejections and vague explanations. The process can make the satirical comparisons of Apple and a communist regime seem pretty reasonable at times.
This, my friends, is one of those instances. Apple has apparently just forbidden a developer from using the word "Android" in his app's description. The message: Drop the A-word, or drop your application.
My response: Seriously, Apple?
Apple and App Store Bans
Apple banned Google's Google Voice app from its App Store last year, a move so strange-looking that even the FCC questioned it. Apple, according to documents made public as part of that investigation, said the app "duplicated the core dialer functionality of the iPhone."
Apple also waved away Google's Latitude app, reportedly claiming it was too similar to the iPhone's built-in Maps application and could offer features not found in the native program.
This new godlike stance, however, gets even more petty. Tim Novikoff, the developer of the Flash of Genius app, says he tried to submit his program to the App Store with a mention of its success in Google's Android Developer Challenge. The Developer Challenge is an annual contest that seeks to honor the most innovative and useful new mobile apps.
The Flash of Genius app was a finalist in the Challenge, and Novikoff thought including that information in the description could help illustrate the program's value and increase its iPhone-based sales. Apple evidently didn't agree; Novikoff says he received a notice from Apple's app approval department that stated the following:
"During our review of your application, we found that your application contains inappropriate or irrelevant platform information in the Application Description and/or Release Notes sections.
"While your application has not been rejected, it would be appropriate to remove 'Finalist in Google's Android Developer's Challenge!' from the Application Description.
"Please log into iTunes Connect to make appropriate changes to the Application Description now to avoid an interruption in the availability of Flash of Genius: SAT Vocab 2.2 on the iPhone App Store."
Apple's Bans: A New Extreme
We know Apple sees Google as an enemy these days; the two companies, after all, are going head-to-head for smartphone sales. But not allowing an app into the App Store simply because it uses the word Android in its description? That's a pitiful new low, even by Apple's standards.
To be clear, the developer himself doesn't appear to feel so strongly about the matter (either that, or he's afraid that expressing dissent could get him axed from Apple altogether). The app sells decently without the mention of the Android Developer Challenge in its description, Novikoff says, and he's willing to leave well enough alone.
I guess I'm just old-fashioned: I like to receive my content unfiltered and make my own decisions. If I want to use a program that references a competing company, I like knowing that I can. If I want to use a program that contains content someone else deems "objectionable" -- or, dare I say it, even adult-themed -- I like knowing I have that right.
Apple's never going to operate under an open and transparent model; that's simply not in the cards. But taking App Store censorship and control to this kind of comedic extreme is nothing short of silly. The iPhone isn't the only contender in the market anymore. Trying to pull the wool over your customers' eyes isn't going to change that; it's only going to make you look dated and desperate.
Come on, Apple. You're better than that.