By Harry McCracken | Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 4:55 pm
Here’s an apparent second example (this was the first) of an iPhone application I’d like to use–one which makes it easier to use multiple Gmail accounts in Web-based form, rather than in Apple’s Mail app–being refused access to Apple’s App Store on the grounds that it duplicates functionality in an Apple product. To quote the rejection letter MailWrangler developer Angelo DiNardi received:
“… Your application duplicates the functionality of the built-in iPhone application Mail without providing sufficient differentiation or added functionality, which will lead to user confusion. …”
Confusion? As a Gmail user, I understood DiNardi’s explanation the moment I skimmed it. Wouldn’t it make sense to let real people determine whether they’re confused by the purpose of his program?
In addition, Apple apparently criticized DiNardi’s app because there’s no way to edit a Gmail account once it’s been entered; you have to delete it and start over again. Possibly a fair point that would be reasonable to bring up in a review of said application. But Apple has okayed more than its share of schlock for the App Store, so it’s not entirely clear why it’s suddenly playing design critic with an app that serves a clear and useful purpose.
Let’s recap Steve Jobs’ explanation of why Apple might reject an iPhone app from last March:
No mention of there being anything offensive about doing something similar to Apple; nothing about apps being nixed because they’re not the most fully realized incarnation possible of an idea.
I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: An App Store in which third parties aren’t allowed to tread too closely to Apple’s own programs is one that’s vastly less interesting–and one that’s likely to stunt the development of what can be and should be the most exciting mobile platform to date.