Oxford Dictionary apps disappear from iTunes

Oxford's suite of dictionary apps have been quietly removed from the iTunes app store, leaving customers with unsupported premium apps.

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Michelle Starr
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Oxford's suite of dictionary apps have been quietly removed from the iTunes app store, leaving customers with unsupported premium apps.

(Credit: Enfour)

If you paid upwards of AU$25 for one of Oxford University Press' dictionary or thesaurus apps, your purchase is now completely unsupported after the entire suite was quietly removed from the app store earlier this year. The apps include the Australian Oxford Dictionary, the Australian Oxford Thesaurus and the Oxford Deluxe combined dictionary and thesaurus with audio.

The apps were developed and published to the iTunes app store by Enfour, a Japanese developer of dictionary apps. Although a couple of the dictionary apps still appear on Enfour's website, Oxford University Press has confirmed that the apps are no longer available.

"The dictionary app to which you refer was produced and marketed by Enfour using content and brand names licensed from Oxford University Press," a spokeswoman told CNET Australia. "This licensing arrangement ended earlier this year, and so Enfour had to remove the apps from sale in the app store. Unfortunately, Apple does not allow continued support of apps once they are no longer available for sale."

In November last year, Enfour was caught attaching an "anti-piracy" module to Oxford University Press' apps. This module required the user to grant permission for the app to access their Twitter account — and then proceeded to post bogus piracy "confessions" from the user's account. Oxford University Press neither confirmed nor denied that letting the licensing arrangement lapse had anything to do with this incident.

Due to the way iTunes is currently set up, Oxford University Press could not take ownership of the apps and republish them under its own store, which was set up last year. Developers can absorb other developers and republish an entire suite of apps, but not individual apps — and since Enfour still has a licensing arrangement with Pearson Education, developing its Longman dictionaries, this solution would not work.

It's particularly vexing for Australian customers, for whom the only other localised option is currently the Macquarie Dictionary, a much more expensive — and less user-friendly — app.

The spokeswoman said, "As these apps carry our brand name, we very much regret that they are no longer supported... We do hope to have alternative apps available soon, but cannot provide any firm plans at this stage."

Enfour declined to comment.

CNET Australia has contacted Oxford University Press for further clarification and will update this story when we have more information.

Update 3.20pm AEST: Added Enfour's comment.