Rogue Amoeba’s AirFoil Speakers Touch app was recently pulled from the App Store by Apple without any notice. Before getting yanked, the app was updated with an “Enhanced Audio Receiving” feature that essentially turned an iOS device into an AirPlay audio receiver. Apple didn’t like Rogue Amoeba’s use of receiving audio through AirPlay, and the company released a short comment saying “Apps that use non-public APIs will be rejected.” That was it.
The good news is that AirFoil Speakers Touch is back in the App Store after a back and forth with Apple. The bad news is that the newest app version is missing the aforementioned AirPlay audio feature. According to Rogue Amoeba, Apple reps admitted that the whole situation was “poorly handled” on their end.
Rogue Amoeba’s public statement after Apple issued its official comment:
As far as we can tell, Airfoil Speakers Touch is in full compliance with Apple’s posted rules and developer agreements. We’ve already filed an appeal with Apple’s App Review Board, and we’re awaiting further information. Unfortunately, Apple has full control of application distribution on iOS, leaving us with no other recourse here.
And now Rogue Amoeba in a blog post today:
Earlier this week, we had a chance to speak to Apple for the first time since they initially told us Airfoil Speakers Touch was being removed from the store two weeks ago. We’ve finally gotten some answers.
We now know that Apple’s issue with Airfoil Speakers Touch was specifically related to its recently-added ability to receive audio directly from iOS devices and iTunes. This was not properly conveyed in our initial conversations prior to the removal of Airfoil Speakers Touch from the store, and Apple’s representatives apologized for the fact that the entire process was “poorly handled”.
It’s clear that despite previous claims, Airfoil Speakers Touch was not in fact using private APIs. The Enhanced Audio Receiving add-on was implemented entirely from scratch and conformed to Apple’s published guidelines.
Regardless, Apple is using the authority they provide themselves in the guidelines and program license agreement to remove apps they don’t like. Specifically, they cited a provision in the App Store Review Guidelines which allows them to reject apps “for any content or behavior [they] believe is over the line”. That’s certainly disappointing, and frustrating, but it’s the nature of the system Apple has created.
If nothing else, we’re gratified to at least have come to an understanding that we didn’t violate the guidelines – Apple simply doesn’t want us providing this functionality in the App Store. Ultimately, if Apple doesn’t want it, we can’t provide it and users can’t have it.
You may be asking why Apple would want to prevent users from having this functionality. Only Apple can provide a full answer here. We do know that Airfoil Speakers Touch’s ability to receive audio directly from iTunes and iOS enabled some users to forgo purchasing expensive AirPlay hardware, hardware which Apple licenses. It seems Apple has chosen to use their gatekeeper powers to simply prevent competition.
No kidding. Pulling an app without reason and then choosing to release a short comment to a news outlet instead of contacting the developers? Apple could have handled this whole thing so much better. This is the problem with the App Store. Apple wields total control, and you can be cast out without explanation.
After all the hoopla, AirFoil Speakers Touch is back in the App Store, and the offending feature has been removed. If you still want to receive audio over AirPlay like before, Rogue Amoeba has a handy guide to work around the new restriction.