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Apple bans geo loco ads on iPhone, iPad*

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Apple has warned developers that they can't use location-based services such as the Core Location framework to deliver ads to iPhone, iPod touch, and - come March - iPad owners based on where they are.

Interestingly, this ban appears to run counter to Apple's own intents as hinted at in recent patent filings.

Thanks to Macnn comes word of the new restriction, posted yesterday on the iPhone Dev Center's News and Announcements blog:

If you build your application with features based on a user's location, make sure these features provide beneficial information. If your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user's location, your app will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification before it can be posted to the App Store.

On the face of it, this restriction appears to be a Cupertinian kindness, keeping Apple-device owners from being bombarded by ads pointing them to a nearby store. Or it could mean that Apple wants that capability all to itself.

One Apple patent filing, for example, entitled "Graphical User Interface with Location-Specific Interface Elements," is specifically aimed at enabling brick-and-mortar businesses "to assist patrons ... with the purchase or review of media items at an online media store."

The idea behind this patent is that an Apple device would know where it was, know what song or video was being played in a store, display an ad for that media item, and offer the device user the opportunity to purchase it using a "a two-state 'Buy' button" that offers the item for sale, then confirms the purchase.

Sounds like an advert to us.

A second more-general patent application, "Location-Based Services," describes a number of different services, including "information corresponding to one or more relevant businesses in a vicinity of the determined current geographic location."

Using a photo-processing business as an example, this filing goes on to suggest that the proximity of a business could trigger the display of a hyperlink to that business's offerings: "For example...the hyperlink may be a link to order prints for pickup from the photo processing business. As another example, the hyperlink can also be associated with a phone number of the business, which when selected causes the telephone number to be automatically dialed. As a further example, the hyperlink can be associated with a coupon associated with the business or other information associated with the business."

This filing also specifically uses the "A" word itself: "In some implementations, selecting the hyperlink triggers a sending of the coupon or other information (e.g., an advertisement) associated with the business to, for example, an email address of the user of the device."

One can only assume that there would be advertising revenue associated with that versatile hyperlink. And as The Reg has often noted, Apple has shown no aversion to tapping every available revenue stream.

Perhaps Apple's warning to developers about location-based advertising is merely its way of keeping its devices from becoming too junked up with "you are here" advertising. Or perhaps it's Cupertino's way of keeping the location-based ad biz to itself. ®

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