CarrierCompare yanked from App Store after making Top 25 listing

Apr 27, 2012
Tech

An app that allowed users to compare the quality of service of the three major iPhone carriers in the U.S. briefly made its way onto the iTunes App Store’s Top 25 list, before Apple pulled the plug on it. The app was CarrierCompare, which allowed users to quickly gauge just how strong their connection was […]

An app that allowed users to compare the quality of service of the three major iPhone carriers in the U.S. briefly made its way onto the iTunes App Store’s Top 25 list, before Apple pulled the plug on it.

The app was CarrierCompare, which allowed users to quickly gauge just how strong their connection was to their cellular network in a given location, and then compare that to similar results for the area for the other carriers. The app itself was pretty innocuous. It didn’t suggest switching carriers, and the findings of one carrier over another were highly subjective based on location, it seemed. It didn’t appear as though CarrierCompare would have been sabotaging one network for another.

But as CNN reports, the app was pulled shortly after a burst of popularity in response to some coverage of the app on CNNMoney. CarrierCompare became the top-downloaded utility app on April 13, the day of the story, and even beat out Apple’s Find My iPhone.

According to CNN, Apple pulled CarrierCompare and another app, Network Snapshot, made by developer SwayMarkets. Apple isn’t too open about its app review or approval process, but the report says that Apple notified the developer that the apps broke one of Apple’s rules for third-party apps. CarrierCompare and Network Snapshot interacted with iOS in a way that Apple hadn’t approved, the company said, and therefore were pulled from the App Store.

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Accessing iOS in such a way as to gather information about signal strength isn’t necessarily against Apple’s rules – which is what SwayMarkets’ apps did – but Apple reserves the right to approve the code that does so. Apple is pretty strict about what apps can and cannot do on its operating system, and how it does them, and without that code receiving Apple’s direct approval, it seems, the iPhone maker decided to pull it.

What makes the situation tough for SwayMarkets, and which illustrates some of the pitfalls developers face when dealing with Apple’s review process, is that the company was led to believe the API it used to ping iOS for signal strength was on the level. It found the API code in an iOS developer forum, CNN says. Apple also had another issue with Network Snapshot a few months ago, and while that was being worked out, the trouble with the signal strength API was never brought up.

But it seems that once an app gains some popularity in the App Store, Apple and its review crew give it a closer look. This is certainly not the first time such a thing has happened. Lots of rule-breaking apps seem to slip through the review process at first only to get yanked when they start to receive some buzz. Still, though, it’s not easy on developers who are legitimately trying to make money in the App Store, because it seems Apple can bring down the hammer without a lot of warning.

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CarrierCompare has since been fixed with the signal strength indicator removed, and it’s back in the App Store as both a free and paid version. As a workaround, SwayMarkets is building an Android app that it can make available in Google Play. Apple’s rules don’t preclude the developer from displaying signal strength information, only from gathering that data from iOS. The plan is to use Android apps, which can gather signal data, to supplement the iOS app.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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