Apple's App Store has been a breakout success, but there have been a few bumps along the way. Here are 10 of them, in the form of apps that went through review, but were later pulled or had to be changed.
Since launching back in July 2008, Apple's iPhone/iPod App Store has amassed more than 100,000 applications, all of which have gone through an approval process that checks for bad code and violations to Apple's developer's agreement. Though along the way, a few apps have slipped through, either by mistake or pure luck.
Before being taken down by Apple (often for good), a few lucky souls may have downloaded these apps. Those users can still use these apps, while the rest of us can't, making them a collectors item in the world of mobile software.
Here are 10 notable pulls, listed in no particular order.
One of the more high profile pulls in App Store history, Nullriver's NetShare enabled users to use their iPhones as cellular modems. While this feature later made its way into the iPhone OS in version 3.0, it's not available on all carriers--most notably on AT&T in the U.S.
The app originally showed up in the App Store July 31, and was pulled shortly thereafter. It then reappeared the next day before once again being yanked...this time for good. Those who still have the application may not see future updates, but it still works on the latest firmware.
Software maker Nullriver continues to write software for Mac, Windows, and the iPhone and still has two other applications on the App Store: Aquanotes, which lets users remotely monitor aquarium information, and Tuner Internet Radio, a streaming radio app.
Flashlight apps are a dime a dozen on the App Store, but Light, an app by developer, and Apple blogger, Erica Sadun was different. It bent the rules by adjusting the brightness of the display, something that wasn't (and still isn't) allowed in Apple's API.
But in the case of this app it was hugely helpful. Say, for instance, you had your brightness turned all the way down. When you launched Light it would bump it all the way up, then return it back to that same level as soon as you quit the app. With other flashlight apps on the App Store you're required to first dig through your iPod or iPhone's settings to tweak the phone's brightness, making them pretty much useless.
Light lives on, although Sadun only offers it as a free app to fellow developers, and not in the App Store.
I Am Rich
One of the early app store follies, I Am Rich is one of the best examples of a savy developer profiting off an under-developed App Store approval process and a few customers who may not have realized that the app did in fact cost $999.99.
Despite its price, the I Am Rich app had no special features beyond displaying a red glowing jewel which when tapped read:
I am rich I deserv it I am good, healthy & successful
Eight people purchased the app before Apple got wise and pulled it for good. Armin Heinrich, the German software developer who created I Am Rich, later said he was never paid the $5,600 or so he was due from his cut of those sales.
While the app lives on as an reminder of the App Store's early stumbles, it was effectively copied by another developer named "Mike dg" for use in the Android's application marketplace as a $200 app called "I Am Richer." That price tag is the absolute top of what developers can charge on Google's Android Market. Though according to Mike dg, his version of the app has not made him rich. "I've sold about 50 copies of the app, probably a third of those were at $200," he told CNET. "But due to Android's return policy, all of the purchases at $200 were refunded."
Mike dg said he's seen better success at reducing the price, and that he himself pulled it from Android's marketplace, but later brought it back due to user requests. "Some people like to just show off funny stuff in the market," he said.
Braun Software GmbH - Sophistes
BeautyMeter, a free app from German developer Braun Software GmbH - Sophistes, had users voting on the assets of men and women in terms of their face, body, and clothes. All these photos had to be approved by the developer to show up for others to vote. The only problem with this is that there appeared to be no actual filtering going on, and naked photos managed to make it on through. Including those of people who were under the age of 18, which meant that the app was breaking the law in several countries.
The app was quickly pulled, however Braun bounced back with a retooled version called Girls and Boys that basically does the same thing, sans the underage nudity of course.
Hottest Girls, a $1.99 app that started out with slightly risque photos of almost-naked women flipped the switch (after it was approved by Apple) to show--ahem--everything. Once the word got back to Apple, the app was dead in its tracks.
Oddly enough, when the app was first pulled, developer Allan Leung had posted a note on his site saying it had been removed because his servers had been completely overloaded. Turns out, Apple had asked Leung to remove the nude shots, or else have the app removed. When he did not comply, Apple took action.
Creator Sikalosoft has since backpedaled on the merits of the app, noting that even the Grand Theft Auto series has not yet crossed such social thresholds. The developer also has two other apps that continue to exist: Dungeons ($2.99) and Dice Mosaic ($.99), neither of which have babies in them.
Zombie School was on the App Store for a week and a half before being taken down. The app had users shooting and grenading zombified classmates at a dilapidated school. In light of the negative connotations to school shootings, Apple took it down, however it took a fair round of press which began with its discovery by blog iPhoneWorld.
Zombie School developer Retarded Arts bounced back though. A month later the company re-released the app as "Zombie City" which was otherwise identical to Zombie School, although instead of being at a school it was in a city, and the characters were made to look less like children.
iStat (plus Free Memory and MemoryInfo)
iStat's story is less of an app pull as much as a reduction in functionality. We're still including it since those who have the older version and haven't upgraded can continue to use features others can't.
Bjango's iStat app, which is still available in the App Store for $1.99, gives you a heads-up display of everything that's going on both for your iPhone/iPod as well as any computers you have hooked up that are running the company's free iStat widget. Though one of its big features was that it could free up memory in your device, something you normally have to reboot to achieve. This was more important with previous generation iPhones and iPods since the amount of RAM was halved from 256MB to 128MB, with much of that number being taken up by various system processes. The benefit here being that users could run the app, clear out their memory, and launch something else without the worry of it running out of space or suffering performance jitters.
While iStat was one of the more high-profile apps to get the memory yank, two others went with it, including Free Memory and MemoryInfo, both from developer Recession Apps.
VoiceCentral / GV Mobile
VoiceCentral and Google Voice Mobile were two iPhone applications that tapped into Google's Voice service, including its dialer, user SMS, and voicemail system. Both apps were yanked in late July as part of Apple's mass removal of Google Voice-specific apps.
GV Mobile lives on though. Developer Sean Kovacs re-released the application on Cydia, a third-party application directory and installer for jailbroken iPhones and iPods. VoiceCentral, however, is still at the whim of Apple as to whether it will ever return to the App Store.
The good news for both apps is that they could one day return. That is if this whole Google vs. AT&T vs. Apple hate triangle resolves itself.
Stoneloops of Jurassica
Stoneloops of Jurassica hit the App Store in mid-May. Despite getting positive reviews from the gaming press, and doing well in both popularity and sales, it was put in a difficult position when competitor MumboJumbo sent a note to to Apple saying that Stoneloops infringed on the intellectual property rights of its Luxor franchise as well as copying some of Luxor's visual style. According to Stoneloops developer Maciej Biedrzycki, Apple put the burden of proof on it instead of MumboJumbo. And despite Biedrzycki and company refuting the claims, the app was taken down just two weeks later.
Stoneloops has now been off the App Store for more than a month. Users can still pick up the game for Mac and PC, but the only way to get it on an iPhone is if you had previously purchased the title while it was available. In the meantime Biedrzycki tells us he's hired outside legal help to get the app back on the store.