France calls Apple’s decision to remove AppGratis ‘extremely brutal and unilateral’, will ask EU for tighter regulation

AppGratis-645x250Following a controversy in which Apple removed app discovery service AppGratis from its App Store for breaking Apple’s guidelines, Reuters reports today that regulators in France are planning to ask the European Commission and EU member states for better regulation of technology companies. The statement was made by French junior minister for digital economy Fleur Pellerin on a recent trip to AppGratis publisher iMediapp. Fleur described Apple’s decision to pull AppGratis as “extremely brutal and unilateral”:

“This behaviour is not worthy of a company of this size,” Pellerin said. She added that certain Internet companies were guilty of “repeated abusive behaviour” and said she would ask the European Commission and EU member states to better regulate digital platforms, search engines and social media.

The decision comes as Apple is drawing some heat for its broad App Store guidelines that have allowed it to remove some apps that promote App Store content but not others. Apple originally said that AppGratis was removed for breaking a guideline that warns against “Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store.” Apple also said AppGratis was in violation of guideline 5.6 that says “apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind.

AllThingsD reported that sources have indicated Apple’s removal of AppGratis is part of a broader crackdown on app discovery applications, but a grey area still remains regarding how Apple decides which apps are approved and which are removed.

Apple told Retuers today that it had discussions with AppGratis prior to the removal and that the developers had “disregarded its technical specifications.” Read more

AppGratis CEO explains App Store removal, says Apple is destroying value in its ecosystem

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After receiving some clarification from Apple last night over the removal of discovery app AppGratis, CEO Simon Dawalt is weighing in today with a statement posted on the AppGratis website explaining that the situation has been “absolutely crazy” to deal with:

And that is pretty much where we stand, still stunned that Apple took the decision to destroy so much value within their own ecosystem, but more than ever convinced that what we’re doing is good, and accomplishing a much needed mission in a broken App Discovery world.

While explaining that App Gratis has gone through a number of rejections for breaking App Store guidelines in situations that were later resolved with Apple, Dawalt shed some light on what happened on Apple’s side: Read more

Google’s Eric Schmidt says Google Now for iOS approval is in Apple’s court

Update: Apple responds.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt spoke at the company’s Big Tent Summit in India this morning, and, on top of claiming there are no immediate plans to merge Chrome and Android, the executive discussed the possibility of Google Now coming to iOS devices. It appears Google is in a similar situation to when it launched a standalone Google Maps app, as Schmidt claimed it’s up to Apple to approve or reject Google Now for the App Store. TechCrunch pointed us to the comment from the Google executive at around 17 minutes into the interview:

You’ll need to discuss that with Apple” (at around 17:50). “Apple has a policy of approving or disapproving apps that are submitted into its store, and some of them they approve and some of them they don’t,” he went on to say.

A video that appeared to be an ad for the debut of Google Now on iPhone and iPad landed on YouTube last week before quickly being removed. The video (above) showed that Google could implement Google Now functionality—currently only available as a Siri-like voice and contextual assistant app on Android devices—into the Google Search app.

Google already updated its Google Search app with voice recognition and Google Now-like features last October, and a number of comparison videos have since appeared online and show Siri has some serious competition with even the scaled back voice search features. Bringing the contextual assistant features that Google Now implements on Android to the Google Search app would give iOS users yet another reason to use it rather than Siri for a large number of tasks. Read more

Apple rejected this app because it is too much like Siri

The last we heard, Apple was working with developers of Siri alternatives such as True Knowledge, the developers behind “Evi,” to iron out similarities between the app and the iPhone 4S‘s flagship feature. Apple is quick to warn developers who are submitting Siri-like apps not to mimic native features of the OS. Apple wants an app’s features to remain “distinctly different from the iOS behaviors and interfaces to avoid causing user confusion.” Developer Sparkling Apps reached out to let us know Apple rejected its latest app submission called “Voice Answer,” with Apple telling the developer the Wolfram Alpha-powered alternative is “too similar to Siri.”

Apple is not flat-out rejecting all Siri alternatives/competitors. Sparkling Apps already has an app called “Voice Ask” on the App Store that sits in the top charts of the Reference category. Evi remains on the App Store as well. However, the Voice Ask app employs the same True Knowledge database as Evi. While Apple did not offer a specific reason for why the app was rejected, it is possible that Apple is more inclined to reject Siri-like apps using Siri’s Wolfram Alpha knowledge base. Unsurprisingly, the developers decided to release Voice Answer as an Android-only app on Google Play. So why would you want a third-party Siri alternative anyway? There are a few features an app like Voice Answer, if Apple were to allow it, would provide that Siri does not.

First off, the app would run on all devices with iOS 4.2 and up. It also provides spoken answers, optional keyboard input, and configurable items stored in the app’s memory. According to the developer, Voice Answer’s “speech recognition works better than that of Siri, especially with foreign accents,” and the app includes a chatbot called “Eve” that you can teach answers. While most of these features are also baked into Evi, it is unclear exactly why Apple is working with some developers to coexist peacefully with Siri, and then flat-out rejecting others without discussion. It is clear that iOS users are interested in these apps. With the 99-cent-Evi sitting around 200,000 downloads shortly after release, and Siri currently limited to only the iPhone 4S, there is definitely a market for voice-powered assistants if Apple allows it. However, Apple’s reasoning is vague for allowing some Siri competitors and rejecting others. An excerpt from Apple’s rejection to Sparkling Apps and screenshots of the unreleased Voice Answer iOS app are below. Unfortunately, if you want to try the app, you will have to on an Android device for the time being:

Read more