With Apple rejecting apps written for its iPhone for one reason or another, both developers and consumers are increasingly going undergroundand creating an alternative marketplace. Developers are able to flog their wares while consumers can find what they’re looking for, even if Apple says no, and fully harness the power of the iPhone. Google Voice, which was controversially rejected by Apple recently, is now availablethrough one of these underground app stores.
The biggest barrier to the use of these underground, unofficial apps, is that the iPhone has to be ‘jailbroken’ (i.e. hacked into, to bypass Apple’s restrictions), which of course voids any official warranties. Jailbreaking is much like unofficial unlocking of phones and it’s a practice that’s increasing in popularity, in no small part due to widely available software that makes it reasonably straightforward to hack into an iPhone.
The underground community has existed right from day 1 (remember those headlines within days of launch that the iPhone had been successfully hacked into to allow use on any network?). But once Apple released an official software development kit (SDK) in 2008, most developers chose the official route. Now that Apple’s operating a pretty opaque app acceptance system and seemingly randomly rejecting apps, it’s not surprising that developers are going back underground and consumers are following them.
It’s interesting that it was Apple’s iTunes that reversed the trend of illegal music downloads yet now Apple’s own restrictions are tipping the scales towards making underground stores and unauthorised apps for its products not only viable but also attractive. So much so that there are now entire businesses dedicated to monetising unauthorised apps for the iPhone.
Photo credit: jimpg2 _PEACE via Flickr/Creative Commons