What if Apple Killed Paid Apps for Unlocked/Developer iPhones? Google Android Did!

Apple decides which apps get approved for the iPhone/iPod touch App Store, provides little to no transparency on the process, prevents certain things like turn-by-turn GPS outright in the SDK agreement, and -- though they've yet to use them -- maintains black lists for GPS and malware that could remove any LocationServices or entire applications from iPhones everywhere. For this, and more, Apple has earned quite a bit of criticism -- and rightly so in many cases.

What if Apple went further, however. They sell officially unlocked iPhones in several regions, like Hong Kong. They also have a program that grants developers tethering abilities for testing. What if, one day, people with unlocked or developer iPhones woke up to find the Paid section of the App Store gone. What would the community reaction be? What should it be?

Google, whose "don't be evil" motto has been downgraded by management in recent years, is lauded for the openness of their Android Market (even though they're known to have a kill switch of their ownl -- to do otherwise would be irresponsible), yet our friends over at Android Central woke to find themselves in just such a situation this week. Paid apps. Gone.

We're told it's because of piracy concerns, that Google thinks developer units of the G1 make it easier for people to steal paid apps. Jeffdc5 on Twitter let us know developer G1 handsets could store apps on the SD memory card in addition to the on-device memory of the regular units, which could make them more pirate-able. However, we've seen that the iPhone -- with no external memory -- can have apps pirated as well, so is that readon enough? It smacks of the same "treat your customers as thieves" thinking that created DRM music, Microsoft Genuine Advantage, Sony rootkits, and Adobe invading our boot sectors...

Apple has already removed DRM from iTunes music, and has now removed product keys from boxed versions of iLife 09 and iWork 09 as well. It seems to be working out none too badly for them.

Openness is definitely A Good Thing. Maybe trust in your user base should be as well?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

Yet Another MobileMe Phishing Scam

Next up →

Cracky Birthday to You! CrackBerry.Com Turns Two!

Reader comments

What if Apple Killed Paid Apps for Unlocked/Developer iPhones? Google Android Did!


As a support tech for a company that develops iPhone software, we've seen problems caused by our apps running on jailbroken devices. Bonjour doesn't work properly, or the user has managed to screw up their phone to the point where they don't have permission to access files installed with the app.
Pirating is one thing, but jailbreaking lets you modify how the phone functions, to the point of breaking things that SDK-developed software assumes will function correctly.

I'm part of the user base and I wouldn't feel I was being treated like a thief, or not trusted... I'm not unlocked.
Business is business.

All these things like DRM and product keys were brought about by people stealing the stuff in the first place. Companies were losing money, so they cracked down to prevent that. You can't blame them for trying to prevent people from stealing their product.
It's funny because usually the people who have problems with these measures are the ones who were pirating in the first place.

How does jailbreaking modify how the PHONE functions? Mine is jailbroken, and the PHONE still works. Everything else works for that matter, it's just got different apps on it. That's modifying how the phone LOOKS.
Just like if I paint my car. That's modifying how it LOOKS. It still runs.

Jailbreaking an iPhone or any phone for that matter modifies the protection layer(s) of the kernel and/or any other part of the OS. Doing so allows you to install unapproved apps on to the device therefore the OS nolonger works as it use to. I'm sure more of the OS is modified than that but the security layer for instance is probably required by Bonjour in order to authenticate the device it's communicating with.
So if anyone thinks that jailbreaking or unlocking a device is not modifying how the device works please think again. And if anyone could explain it better please do even if it discounts what I said.
Anyway it would be unfortunate if Apple did this but I'd understand if they did. There is a fine line companies travel in order to provide a product and not have it ripped off or stolen at the same time.

I don't think you need the apps to develop for the iPhone. If apple has cracked down then it's probably because someone was doing something they shouldn't have been doing. I say Kudos to apple for protecting the app developers from theivery.
I wish Apple were allowed to focus on product development rather than keeping what is rightfully theirs safe from thieves. It really is a shame. If Apples customers stopped acting like thieves then they would stop being treated like thieves.
My phone is locked and will remain locked because it is what I agreed to when I bought it.

Okay, I'm all for buying content, however I pirate a lot of things.
Now, one thing that really makes no sense to me is companies that don't let you do what yoh want with your property, that's why I'm against DRM. For example, I own Civ 4, a computer game. I would like to play whenever I want, but thanks to the developers, I need to have the disk in the drive to play the game. So, I went to my local torrent site and downloaded a No CD version of the game I bought so I could do that.
What Google has done here is to destroy the functionality of some of their phones to prevent piracy. Now, if I were to unlock the phone because, say I moved to a foreign country and I wanted to use my phone on the legitimate carrier there and the paid apps dissappeared I would literally be forced to pirate them.
I use that example because that is precisely what happened to me recently. I bought an iPhone in the States, used it on AT&T and was perfectly happy. Then I decide to go to school in the UK. I go to the Apple store and ask if my iPhone will work with the legitimate carrier there, o2. They said "Yeah, no problem, just swap SIM cards and you'll be fine." That would've been great, however when I go to the o2 store to activate, it doesn't work. The carrier tells me to unlock it if I want to use it. So I go and do just that. I unlocked my iPhone so I could go from one legitimate carrier to another in a different country because I moved and I had to Jailbreak and Unlock to do so. If all the paid apps dissappeared because of that I would be hopping mad and on the phone with Apple immediately to tell them how stupid the policy is.
That's just me. Think about amatuer developers who use their daily phone to test their apps. They just got shanked!
In both cases the customer who is doing somethig legitimate would be run over for the sake of defeating pirates. That is bad business.
Also, DRM has never worked and will never work because it can either be stripped eventually, or it's so invasive that you are essentially paying the company to decide what you can and cannot do on your comouter with your property and eventhat will eventually be hacked.
Long live honesty, death to DRM.

Apple should disable your phone altogether if its jailbroken or if apple can tell you've jailbroken it.

I just find it funny the great google that everybody loves is just like big bad apple that tries to shut down anything. Piracy exists I download things for free and I pay for many things. Once I lady down 300 plus for a phone and 60 plus dollars a month for service I should be able to do whatever I want with it. I shouldn't have to run around trying to fight against changes. Do you know how much the iphone would dominate if jailbreaking was embraced.

LOL. It appears that Google is "closing" fast on the "open" Android. People thought they had an open Android OS phone now so we could do whatever we want with it unlike the Apple's iPhone. Nope.
As for unlocking issues, they could be eliminated altogether with better law/policies. In some countries, for example, it's illegal to lock the phone to a particular network. Also, even if the career locks the phone it should be in the agreement that the phone must be unlocked upon request (free of charge, that is) at least in the following situations: 1 - a person moves to another country, 2 - upon expiration of the original contract.

@KenC you (and others) need to stop telling people there is a turn-by-turn nav app in the AppStore. Below is a quote from the FAQ on the G-Map company's web site. Their own web site disputes you!

  1. Does G-Map support real time Guidance? Such as Turn-by-Turn arrow and Voice prompt?
    Currently, our application doesn't support turn by turn guidance including voice prompt.
    This is based on APPLE's strict strategy which prohibits any real time guidance. Once there’s any positive change in APPLE strategy, we'll support this function.

The thing is....I have an official phone...i do not and have not used any jailbroken apps etc etc.
However - I do have my device jailbroken. Why?. Because its the only way IO can delete the power config file from the device to stop the damn thing turning off all the time.
Does this mean that apple will require me to choose between a phone which remains on or paid apps?
Let me see - what would my choice be - oh yeah - sell the iphone and buy the android!!!

it makes me laugh really, look at nokia, brilliant phone company, tried tried tried to stop phones being unlocked and even went to the point of employing the top phone hacker to lock there phones only to be hacked a few days after model release date.
bottom line is no one will ever stop hacking or modifying!, theres always a geek or two willing to take these companies on and make them look stupid again and again.
if you bought the product, you own it, you choose how and what happends to it, its your iphone! not theres!, you dont get ferrari telling there customers
"no you have to buy New!, genuine parts and only from our approved dealers" or else!
what happend to selling the iphone and "thankyou for choosing our product"! it cost over £300!! how many of these phones have been sold alone? aint that good enough?
also if the phones were left unlocked then most of the modds and hack would never of got as far as they have, and apps being deleted!???? lol well thats just a great way of pushing your customers away from your next upcoming trend setting product.