Why the Hell Did Apple Pull Camera+ From the App Store?

Apple has pulled Camera+ from the App Store. Its only sin: Allow iPhone customers to press the volume button to take photos. But why are they taking away a feature that everyone has been demanding since the JesusPhone was introduced?

According to Apple, the "application cannot be added to the App Store because it uses iPhone volume buttons in a non-standard way, potentially resulting in user confusion." Furthermore, "changing the behavior of iPhone external hardware buttons is a violation of the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement. Applications must adhere to the iPhone Human Interface Guidelines as outlined in the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement section 3.3.7."

Why the Hell Did Apple Pull Camera+ From the App Store?

That's what Apple told TapTapTap, the Camera+ developers, when they first introduced that feature. Instead of deleting it completely, they just disabled the feature, and the app passed the controls. But, like the 15-yo kid who hid tethering functionality in a flashlight application, they left a way to access it. If you have Camera+, write camplus://enablevolumesnap in Safari, and the volume button feature will be enabled.

Like with the flashlight/tethering application, Apple pulled the Camera+ app minutes after learning about this—despite the fact that Apple's own apps have disabled features that can be enabled in the same way. In the meantime, however, news of the feature catapulted Camera+ the #3 position in the paid apps ranking. It's not that their sales were bad to begin with—they were really good—but the news made the sales jump up wildly.

Clearly, the users want a physical button.

A stupid argument

The only reason that could have been valid is a technical argument, like TapTapTap accessing some hidden system trap, an undocumented programming call that may change in the future. Something that may introduce a technical conflict. But that has not been the case.

Apple's usability argument was stupid when they first rejected the feature, and it's even more stupid now, when they pulled the application. They claim that the user will get confused by the volume snap feature, because they expect the button to only change the volume.

But how can users get confused by a feature that they enable themselves? If anything, that's exactly what the user expects every time they fire up Camera+ instead of the limited Apple Camera application. Or does Apple think their users are imbeciles who are going to wake up one day and forget about the feature that made them buy Camera+ in the first place? Does Apple think that their customers can't handle customization of their device?

Given Apple's past history of app censoring, seemingly treating customers like little kids who can't choose what they want, the answer to those questions may very well be yes.

Some hope

The developers think this is ok. At least, they argue, this is not another example of the obscure, seemingly arbitrary approval process that many developers suffer. They have asked Apple to introduce a new rule that would allow developers to use external buttons for other functions within their application. If you are a developer, ask for the same thing. Perhaps they will get the message then. Given the raging success of Camera+, it's clear that this is what users want.

And, at the very best, we will get a physical button in the iPhone 5.