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Exiled iPhone Wi-Fi apps move to Cydia

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Developers kicked out of the iTunes store for using private APIs are turning to the unregulated Cydia store, and think the demographic might even suit them better.

Last week Apple kicked out a handful of applications that made use of "private framework" APIs to enable scanning for nearby hot spots. Now those apps are popping up on Cydia, with one already hitting 18,000 downloads by iPhone users willing to jailbreak their handsets to get applications that Apple won't allow.

Those figures are for WiFiFoFum, which is being given away through the Cydia store. But later this week 'yFy Network Finder' will pop up as a paid application that the developer reckons could bring in more money than when it was being sold legitimately through iTunes.

We had a chat last week with David Grant, author of yFy Network Finder, when the applications were pulled by Apple. Grant is moving to the Cydia store not because he objects to the rules, but because he objects to the inconsistent application of those rules.

"If they wanted compatibility they could have done this when version three came out," Grant told us, referring to the fact that when version 3.0 of the iPhone OS came out all the Wi-Fi-scanning applications stopped working. Those applications then had to be changed, and resubmitted to the iTunes store where Apple happily approved them despite the fact that they clearly made use of private APIs - they couldn't exist any other way.

Apple's notification that the application was going to be pulled admits that there's no way such an app could exist without breaking the rules, so given the apps had been sitting in iTunes for a year or two developers had assumed tacit permission.

That assumption was flawed, but all is not lost for developers who have moved into the alternative application store. WiFiFoFum is being given away, in its entirety, but David Grant reckons there's money to be made out of Cydia users:

"Those who jailbreak their phones tend to be more technical ... more likely interested in looking for hotspots."

There are reports of developers making big sums of money through Cydia, though peak numbers aren't as interesting as an ongoing turnover. yFy Network Finder was bringing in about $3,500 a month through iTunes, and Grant has promised to let us know how the application fairs in Cydia.

A viable alternative to the iTunes app store would annoy Apple, which last year changed its developer terms and conditions to prohibit its tools being used to create content for Cydia, but for iPhone fans more competition can only be a good thing. ®

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