Camera+ Shuttered from App Store for Hidden Banned Feature

It looks like tap tap tap’s Camera+ added one too many features for Apple’s liking. When the app developers tweeted a secret workaround that enabled the volume button to double up to control the shutter, Apple pulled Camera+ from the App Store.

Just this week, developer John Casasanta wrote in a blog post that an upgraded version of the app originally intended to launch the feature, VolumeSnap. VolumeSnap would have also allowed users to use the volume control on iPhone headphones as a remote shutter control. Pretty nifty.

But Apple rejected tap tap tap’s new version, citing this as a reason:

Your application cannot be added to the App Store because it uses iPhone volume buttons in a non-standard way, potentially resulting in user confusion. Changing the behavior of iPhone external hardware buttons is a violation of the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement. Applications must adhere to the iPhone Human Interface Guidelines as outlined in the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement section 3.3.7

So tap tap tap left out the feature — at first. The app retained the feature, which was now hidden, but could be enabled by pointing the phone’s browser to a specific site provided by the developers.

Though tap tap tap developers had only posted the tweet announcing the workaround for 30 minutes before taking it down, news of it had spread, and Camera+ suddenly rising into the #3 position for top paid apps. And then Apple came down in full force with its stringent hand of App Store regulation.

Currently, the App is nowhere to be seen on the App Store. In a touch of irony (or perhaps mere foreshadowing, for you literary types), tap tap tap’s John Casasanta had written of such possibilities in that same blog post as earlier:

Some of you pointed out other camera apps that make use of the volume buttons for snapping photos. But Apple suspects that these slipped through the review cracks because the developers intentionally hid the feature from their app descriptions and screenshots upon submission, but then added info about them after their apps got approved. When Apple finds out about these incidents, they tend to crack down pretty hard on them, sometimes going so far as completely banning the developers from the App Store. So this is definitely not the smart way to go.

And yet… why stir the wrath of Apple “standards”?

Camera+ was doing considerably well. The tap tap tap blog reports that within two months on the market, the $1.99 app netted half a million dollars. The app also enjoyed exposure as the App of the Week in the European App Store, and enjoyed a cozy spot amongst the most downloaded photography Apps.

The numbers show that while buyers largely enjoyed Camera+, even more were interested when the hidden feature came to light. The buyers have spoken: they want a shutter button.

The absence of Camera+ in the App Store is a testament to a very hot issue on Apple “censorship,” or at the very least its extremely closed market, but tap tap tap developers say they are optimistic in appealing to Apple for more open features:

What was suggested to us was that we file a feature request with Apple to provide a supported way to repurpose the volume controls. This is the official way for developers to suggest changes to Apple and we’ve done so many, many times in the past. Sometimes it’s taken over a year for a change to be made and sometimes things happen almost immediately. The great thing is that Apple’s constantly evolving the iOS SDK and almost everything we’ve ever needed has made its way into it. So we’re confident that it’ll happen… it’s just a matter of when.

But now the question is whether Camera+ will ever make it back on the market.

Image Credit: adapted from Apple retro by kyz

Update: Apple has turned the “volume up” button into a shutter in iOS 5.

  • Ed

    I think it’s quite a smart move. They’re a big presence on the App Store with a lot of customers. Apple won’t want to do without them for long and in the meantime have had the “use of buttons for other purposes” issue pushed in their face. It’s been bubbling under the surface for a while, but a big player broaching it moves it higher up the agenda: more people are talking about it, and pushing Apple for it to happen.

  • AYRTON360

    You know what … If I invite you to get unside my house BUT I clear say that you’re NOT allowed to smoke inside … Then I turn my back and you begin to smoke … I really think APPLE is RIGHT !!!
    I also would ask you to leave my house for good !!!

    If there’s arule you have the option to accept or not.
    If not, just take your stuff and live !

  • Todd Walker

    I can’t believe taptaptap did this. They have this writeup on their site about how other app developers are bad seeds because they circumvent the rules and make themselves out to be one of the good guys then they turn right around and do it themselves? Idiots. They had a hugely successful app that now may never make it back on the iPhone.

    They absolutely were NOT right to do what they did. Apple makes the rules and if you don’t like them, go write for another platform, simple as that. No one is free to break the rules just because they disagree with them. What an idiotic thing to do.

  • lightingbryan

    This is exactly why I do not do business with Apple. Come on is it really that big of deal that someone wrote an app like this? Its cool, its innovative. Apple only is in it for the money and control. Look at Google, if someone did this to an Android phone, they would support it. They might even put it on their blog saying look how cool this is. Apple is an evil empire trying to control every aspect of their products instead of allowing creativity and freedom.

  • Ed

    I wrote in my earlier comment that I thought it was a smart move by the devs (note “smart”, not necessarily “right”), as I guessed it would bring the issue of using the volume buttons for other purposes higher up the agenda. Seems that’s what’s happening –

    I don’t think taptaptap believed for one minute that the app wouldn’t get removed – nor do I believe for one minute that they won’t be let back in at some point – I think they were playing the long game. To argue about who’s right or wrong is to miss the point – the taptaptap are pushing a different agenda entirely.

  • Fredrik Matheson

    It’s fun to note that Apple finally included this feature: iOS 5 lets you use the volume button as the release button.

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