Mobile Nature & Shape of Intent :

Camera+ Dodges and Ducks but Apple Rejects

After initial rejection by the app approval process of the Apple App Store, TapTapTap managed to get Camera+ approved. Two months later and a reported $500,000 in their pockets, the app is yanked from the App Store for violation of the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement section 3.3.7.

TapTapTap has been a successful iPhone app development company with a number of applications in the App Store. On this occasion, they have appeared to have gone too far for Apple.

After first attempting to get the app through the approval process in an upfront fashion and being rejected, they then got the app approved with the feature buried out of sight of Apple. The user would then later activate the feature in an easter egg fashion. Once Apple caught wind of this situation the app was removed from the store altogether.

TapTapTap’s specific offense was a redefinition of the iPhone’s hardware volume controls as a method of snapping a photo without having to use the admittedly clumsy touch screen methodology, that often jars the camera as the image is shot. Apple does not allow any changes by developers of the physical controls for reasons other than their described user expectations and they clearly spell this out in the Developer Program License Agreement.

Apple has a very good reason for this action, as  it violates a clear and consistent user experience expectation. Users pattern to the use of a button or an interface feature, its behavior and control profile. These form a foundation, sort of like a usage library of expectations that all developers can tap into. This eliminates the need for help and explanations and increases user satisfaction as they can quickly and intuitively learn an app’s functions and how to access its features.

Apple has a process for developers to make requests for changes in usage of features and controls and TapTapTap has requested that the volume buttons be used for snapping a photo. I very much doubt that Apple will approve and allow this change to the Human Interface Guidelines.

The issue of needing a dedicated camera button for the iPhone has been growing for some time, but with the vastly improved camera and screen in the newly released IPhone 4 this has now become an imperative. Apple should consider adding an external button, well placed on the iPhone’s edge, that could be assigned any number of purposes, including the use as a photo snapping trigger.

It is a risky business deceiving Apple and hiding features with the intent of sneaking them past the process Apple uses to approve apps. The misdemeanor punishment is having your app removed from the store but on some occasions Apple has banished developers from the App Store permanently. TapTapTap managed to dodge that bullet and walk away with a half million dollars in theirs pockets, not bad, not bad at all.

Originally published in the Swiss online newspaper,, reedited for WholeThinking.

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