The version 1.1 release of developer Bjango's iStat application for the iPhone last week was marked with disappointment.
To maintain the application's availability on the App Store, Bjango had been told by Apple that it had to remove what was arguably the most compelling feature of version 1.0: Free Memory, which enabled people to clear wired and inactive memory to increase the iPhone's battery life. It also improved the device's performance.
Bjango, which focuses on developing apps for the iPhone, felt that it had no other choice but to create a new version sans the Free Memory feature. iStat 1.1, $1.99, offers only iPhone monitoring. Among other things, users can see battery life calculations and how much memory and disk space remains.
"Apple would not say why we needed to remove the 'Free Memory' feature," Tori Gale, support manager at Bjango, wrote in an e-mail. "(Apple) simply demanded that it was removed, or (it) would delete (version 1.0 of) the app from the store...Nothing iStat did violated the terms of the developer contract, as far as we know, and Apple didn't say that it did."
When pressed for more insight over Apple's ultimatum, Gale had, much to her chagrin, little to say. "Apple really hasn't given us any information," she said. "We simply don't have much we can say."
Apple did not respond to requests for clarification as to why it demanded that Free Memory be removed from the app. At this point, I'm just as much in the dark about how iStat's Free Memory feature might have violated App Store policy as Bjango says it is.
This is far from the first time Apple has kept developers and the media at arm's length over an App Store rejection that has caused some head-scratching. More recently, Monday's publicized approval of an iPhone game from a controversial franchise--Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, which follows the rejection of an official "South Park" app over "objectionable" content from the show--has people wondering whether the company even has a standard playbook for app approvals.
For its part, Bjango said it has "enjoyed creating iPhone applications, but we are disturbed at some of the recent decisions by Apple, both in this case and in cases with other developers," Gale wrote. "The dictatorship of the App Store is limiting the creativity of developers and is resulting in users missing out on software that has been allowed on other, more open platforms."
Gale's comments echo gripes other developers and application backers have had over Apple's App Store policies. Among many others, Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor expressed disgust when his band's app was originally rejected for objectionable content. "Apple rejects the NIN iPhone update because it contains objectionable content," he tweeted to his followers. "Not even sure where to start with that one."
That sentiment of frustration and bewilderment is growing in the iPhone developer community. A recent demand from the Federal Communications Commission has forced Apple to shed a bit of light on its app approval policies, but much more light could stand to be shed on it. In its current state, the apparent inconsistencies and outstanding questions appear to be hurting all parties involved--including Apple.