— David (@idoodler) March 13, 2013
Earlier this week, HiddenApps managed to sneak onto the App Store. It allowed users to hide stock iOS apps through some rather interesting iOS trickery. You would select an app you wished to hide, for example, everyone’s favourite pointless waste of time, Newsstand, then, the app would prompt you to let “idoodler.de” install “Poof”. On selecting this, the download would fail, however the Newsstand icon would have transformed into a “Poof” icon, which could be deleted like any other app. Watching my Newsstand app disappear made me stupendously happy, for all of 12 hours…
Inevitably, Apple pulled this app from the App Store, and so my hideous Newsstand app was lurking on my home screen, ready to gloat when I awoke this morning. It’s since become clear that over the course of 12 hours, Apple also demanded that iDoodler deactivate HiddenApps, then took punishment one step further by terminating his developer account.
Now, the dust is yet to settle here, but there seems to be a certain sympathy for iDoodler here, and I think I’m inclined to agree. I’m also however, quite aware of the Apple Developer Agreement, which forbids the modification of iOS in this way. iDoodler’s app represented a direct violation of the agreement that he subscribed to when he became a developer. In terminating iDoodler’s account, Apple has simply acted upon its very clear, and apparently very strict developer policy. So, why am I writing this article?
The problem for me lies not in the plight of iDoodler, but rather in the principles behind his account termination, and Apple’s wider attitude to customizability as a whole…
You see, regular followers of the site will know that in the last month I’ve written a couple of articles examining Apple’s attitudes to iOS and customizability. It all began with my article “Why I want a new operating system before a new iPhone“. I looked briefly at some of the concepts being thrown around the interweb, and talked about what I wanted to see in the next iOS. Then, a couple of days ago I wrote “Why iOS customizability would kill jailbreaking” where I looked at the link between jailbreaking and the lack of customizability in iOS. As you can see, the idea of customization in iOS has been playing on my mind for a long time. I’ve almost reached my breaking point in frustration at iOS 6. When the pinnacle of Apple’s mobile operating system only allows me to change my wallpaper and the order in which my apps appear on the home screen, then something is seriously wrong.
The HiddenApps incident and its initial popularity show a clear intent within the Apple community to push the customization capabilities of iOS. That intent is even clearer in the huge surge in jailbreaking. evasiOn has racked up over 12 million activations in recent weeks as tired iOS users look elsewhere to satisfy their customization needs.
Apple’s reaction to the HiddenApps incident also highlights Apple’s “police-state” attitude towards the use of iOS. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Apple fan. But the closed nature of iOS and the lack of innovation and customization leave so much to be desired in iOS. Yes, iDoodler was wrong to breach the Developer Agreement, but why can’t Apple see that people want more from their software? Why are Apple so adverse to the customization of iOS? iDoodler was just doing what everybody else is thinking, so instead of bringing the hammer down, why won’t Apple take time to look at what he was doing?
I find myself totally bewildered by the notion that Apple seems to be oblivious to the movement of customization and personalisation that is taking shape before its very eyes. Are Apple really so blind?
What do you think? Were Apple right to dismiss iDoodler? Should Apple be looking at more ways to customize iOS? And why haven’t they done so already?
Leave all your thoughts in the comments section, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @TiP_Stephen