561.404.4350 info@sriplaw.com

Several important apps developers are unhappy with Apple and the way the company is still exerting too much control over their App Store. Some developers are so frustrated with Apple and their stringent policies that they are completely halting iPhone development. If enough developers follow suit, the App Store could potentially be in for some trouble.

One of these developers is Joe Hewitt, who worked for Firefox and its acclaimed developer plug-in Firebug. He was so agitated with Apple’s policies that he handed off the Facebook iPhone app to another engineer at the company. Ars technica believed that his decision could have been due to an issue with his Three20 framework rather than issues with the Facebook app. However, he later reported to ars technica that it was because of another experience which he was not at liberty to disclose.

The Three20 framework initially derived from work he did to create the Facebook app and it was named for iPhone’s 320-pixel-wide screen. The open source framework is used by several iPhone developers, which gives them drop-in support for several user interface enhancements in their own iPhone apps. Then Apple stepped in by rejecting apps that relied on the framework and used a private API (Application Programming Interface) call, which goes directly against the controversial iPhone Development Agreement. Although Hewitt should have been aware of this issue, it is likely the reason he decided to break away from iPhone development.

Other developers have proposed different reasons for discontinuing their development with Apple. Second Gear developer Justin Williams cited to the way the App Store is being managed and the risks involved for most developers. The recent rejection of Google Voice for iPhone is one example of what Williams was referring to. Fed up, when Williams attempted to transfer his apps to another developer that purchased them, the Apple Developer Connection prohibited this action, making the transfer much more difficult and costly to its users (who had to re-purchase the app), further illuminating his frustrations with Apple.

Apple leaves a sour taste in developers’ mouths for multiple reasons. Developer Rogue Amoeba, maker of many audio apps for Apple, ran into a development problem that derived from an intellectual property issue. Rogue had a minor bug they needed fix in its Airfoil Speakers ToCall app, the update’s purpose was solely to improve the way audio was received and did not change any functionality.

Regardless, Apple rejected its update multiple times. The reason was both predictable and simultaneously illogical: The app uses Apple-approved images and icons. The original app had already been approved and was in the App Store, it used the same mechanism, and Apple had provided developers public API for accessing these very images. And yet, Apple rejected the use claiming that it was an inappropriate use of “Apple-owned Graphic Symbols.” Like Hewitt and Williams, Rogue Amoeba got so aggravated by its experience that it is no longer developing for the iPhone either.

Developers are starting to question whether they should invest so much time and effort into iPhone development only to have their apps or ideas rejected. These frustrations that Apple has caused could be good news for Google‘s Android. But it is unknown whether developers will give Android a try next.

The good news for Apple: in the app world there are plenty of other developers waiting for a chance to catch lightning in a bottle.


Joel B. Rothman represents clients in intellectual property infringement litigation involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, defamation, trade libel, unfair competition, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and commercial matters. Joel’s litigation practice also includes significant focus on electronic discovery issues such as e-discovery management and motion practice relating to e-discovery.