Apple accused of iPhone ban on 'all single-station radio apps'
Company claims beef with single developer
Update Update: This story has been updated with comment from Apple and had been updated in other places to reflect that statement and further conversations with Jim Barcus.
Jim Barcus – the president of DJB Radio Apps, an outfit that has long helped build iPhone apps and other mobile apps for radio stations across the country – says that Apple is now barring all single-station radio applications from the iPhone and iPad. But Apple says otherwise, indicting it merely has a problem with a single app developer.
"There are many unique radio apps on the App Store and we look forward to approving many more," reads a statement from an Apple spokesman sent to The Register. "One developer has attempted to spam the app store with hundreds of variations of essentially the same radio app and that is against our guidelines."
Barcus is broadcasting his claims via an article in Radio Magazine, urging radio station owners to complain directly to Apple and Steve Jobs. "I think after enough broadcast professionals complain and make Apple aware of the fact that radio stations are in fierce competition with each other and listener loyalty makes the listener want to only listen to his favorite radio station, Apple may change this rule," he says.
But again, Apple's statement contradicts Barcus's claims.
According to Barcus, Apple began rejecting single-station radio apps on November 10, declaring that "single station apps are the same as a fart app and represent spam in the iTunes store" and that it "will no longer approve any more radio station apps unless there are hundreds of stations on the same app."
Barcus can't see the logic of such a stance. "[Apple doesn't] understand that radio stations are in fierce competition," he told The Reg. "[Apple] just wants all radio stations to be on one big fat app, and that's just not going to happen."
As Barcus points out, Apple's recently introduced App Store guidelines say that "developers 'spamming' the App Store with many versions of similar apps will be removed from the iOS Developer Program." Although Barcus acknowledged that the apps he helps build for radio stations are similar, he said that each station has its own Apple developer account and that each app is named and tagged according to the station's call letters and location. "If you search on 'radio station app,' you're not going to see these applications," he tells us. "This isn't like you're getting spam. It's not like keying in 'Fart app.'"
But after further conversions with Barcus after Apple released it's statement, it appears that multiple apps were indeed submitted from his account – though he also says that third-party accounts were used as well.
Barcus also pointed to what he called inconsistencies in Apple's stance. "Every Pizza joint can have its own app. There are more than 900 flashlight apps. More than 3,000 apps that do maps," he says. "But radio stations cannot have their own apps."
Barcus said he had emailed Steve Jobs directly to appeal for a change of heart. But, according to Barcus, Jobs upheld Apple's stance with typical brevity. "Sorry, we’ve made our decision," Jobs replied, according to Barcus
Fart-app-like 'spam' aside, Apple could be angling to offer some sort of radio tool of its own. "This may be about money," Barcus says. Rumors have long suggested that Apple is building its own FM radio app for the iPhone, and later versions of the Jesus Phone include an FM transmitter and receiver hardware.
Currently, this hardware goes unused. At the moment, apps must tap radio stations via the net, and there are myriad apps that do so. National Public Radio (NPR), for instance, offers an app for listening to hundreds of affiliate stations across the country, and ESPN offers a similar app for tapping some of its affiliate stations. ®