Apple yanks iPhone app after hidden feature revealed

Camera+ disappears from App Store

Apple yesterday yanked the popular Camera+ iPhone app from the App Store, apparently in a dispute over a violation of the company's developer agreements.

According to John Casasanta, a principal in Tap Tap Tap, Apple rejected a new release of Camera+ earlier this week because the program lets users snap photographs with the iPhone's volume control buttons. Apple's own photo-taking application operates with an on-screen shutter button.

"This doesn't come as a complete surprise since it wasn't our first time being rejected for that very feature," said Casasanta in a post to the Tap Tap Tap blog Monday.

"Your application cannot be added to the App Store because it uses iPhone volume buttons in a non-standard way, potentially resulting in user confusion," the company said in a rejections response to Tap Tap Tap. "Changing the behavior of iPhone external hardware buttons is a violation of the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement."

With that rejection, version 1.3 of Camera+ never made it to the App Store, a fact that Casasanta took philosophically. "So while we're disappointed with their decision, we're at least happy that they're being perfectly clear about the exact reason for the rejection and that they're being consistent about it," he said Monday.

Casasanta made a point to note that Tap Tap Tap had been above board in its submission to Apple , and denigrated other app developers that had not been as forthcoming.

Some iPhone apps, he said, had have secreted features in their software, hoping that Apple's reviewers will miss them. Later, said Casasanta, those developers will modify the App Store description to tell customers of the hidden feature.

"When Apple finds out about these incidents, they tend to crack down pretty hard on them, sometimes going so far as completely banning the developers from the App Store," said Casasanta. "So this is definitely not the smart way to go."

But according to online reports by several iPhone- and Apple-related blogs, that's essentially what Tap Tap Tap did.

Thursday, Tap Tap Tap posted instructions on its Twitter account for activating the iPhone's volume control buttons in version 1.2.1 of Camera+, an upgrade that was approved Aug. 2, and was then selling on the App Store. The tweet was deleted by Tap Tap Tap shortly after it was posted.

At some point after that, Camera+ was yanked from the App Store.

Ironically, Casasanta boasted of Camera+'s sales Tuesday in a separate post to the Tap Tap Tap blog, noting that after just two months, the program had generated approximately $500,000 in revenue. Among the reasons for its success, said Casasanta, was Apple featuring Camera+ as the "App of the Week" in Europe and several other markets.

Since Camera+'s dismissal from the App Store, Casasanta has not posted any additional entries to the Tap Tap Tap blog. The company did not reply to a request for comment and an interview with Casasanta.

Apple has not been shy about pulling programs from the App Store. Last year, for example, the company yanked VoiceCentral , a Google Voice-related application, a move that ultimately sparked an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

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Tags AppleMobile Apps and Servicesconsumer electronicsMacintoshPhonessmartphones

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Gregg Keizer

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