The high cost of American tech consumption

Unconscious Consumption.

This week I put together an article about the recent fee changes to Apple’s App Store subscriptions policies. If you haven’t been keeping up, Apple changed the way the App Store handles subscriptions this week so that the company will take a 30 percent cut. It also included some stipulations that will make it very difficult for content providers to get iPhone subscribers through means other than the App Store, virtually forcing the 30 percent fee upon third party content providers.

The news reminded me of the ways American corporations gouge consumers on tech. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

While we’re talking about cellular service, why not talk about our cellular plans? You’ve no doubt heard that texting fees are a total ripoff, but let me remind just how bad things are. SMS messages are nothing more than data – tiny bits of data at that – sent along their own control channel in the wireless spectrum. That same control is used, on many networks, to tell your phone that it has service. Do you see where this is going? Let me use a simple analogy. Let’s say my friend Joe sends me a letter every day to let me know he is still alive. One day, he starts writing personal messages at the bottom of the letter, things like “lol y u so funny,” but for adding that personal message, an insignificant amount of ink on a letter he was sending anyway, the post office charges him 20 cents for sending it and charges me 10 cents for receiving it. SMS transmission costs the carriers almost nothing, but they’ll charge me $20 a month for unlimited nothing. That little tirade of mine doesn’t even address the fact that I’m paying for an unlimited data plan, yet I’m getting charged again for sending miniscule amounts of data in a text.

If you think it’s like this everywhere, think again. A 2009 study by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that Americans pay more for cellular service than any of the 30 member countries it surveyed. For an average, medium-use package – 780 voice minutes, 600 text messages, 8 multimedia messages – Americans paid an average of $53 a month. Consumers in the Netherlands paid $11.

It doesn’t stop at cell service, either. To read more about our tech expenditures, head over to the Bullz-Eye gadgets channel.

Unlocking and jailbreaking your phone is now legal

Cydia.It may surprise you to learn that unlocking and jailbreaking your cell phone has to this point been against the law. It’s especially surprising considering some of the first news when a new iOS build is released is who can jailbreak it the fastest.

The legality, at least, will no longer be in question. Feds ruled to make it a legal practice to remove the barriers between you and the awesome powers of your phone. In reality, this doesn’t do much. It’s not like jailbreaking was being enforced in any serious way in the past. This also won’t change things for the current jailbreakers. They’ll keep going, hacking as they have in the past, and the people using alternative app stores will likely continue to do the same. The only people this really affects are the few entrepreneurs out there who will try to make a legitimate buck by opening yet another app store for interested parties.

If you are such a party, start looking for your new apps soon. Otherwise, as you were, folks. Nothing to see here.

Steve Jobs offers top three reasons apps get rejected

At today’s WWDC keynote, Steve Jobs outlined the top three reasons apps get rejected from the notoriously strict App Store.

First, the app doesn’t do what the developer says it does. I can get behind this. It protects the less tech-savvy users, of which there are plenty, from fooling with apps they don’t understand. Second is the use of private APIs. This is probably the most hotly contested issue with iPhone development. Jobs says the APIs are problematic because they often break every time the iPhone OS is updated. Sure, but they also give developers a lot more flexibility with the phone, and isn’t it in the developer’s best interest to release working versions of those apps for every update?

The final reason is that the apps crash. Having reviewed several apps myself, I know that replicable bugs are a big problem.

Jobs did say that 95% of apps get approved within 7 days.

Apple pulls Wi-Fi detectors from the App Store

iPhone Wi-Fi detector.In yet another App Store obliteration, Wi-Fi detection apps have been pulled from the App Store without exception. The word from Apple is that these apps, the type that actively scan for wireless networks, use “private frameworks” to locate hotspots, which is a violation of Apple’s terms of use.

“We received a very unfortunate email today from Apple stating that WiFi Where has been removed from sale on the App Store for using private frameworks to access wireless information,” said one developer. Apple declined to say more about the removal.

I think it’s odd that Apple would start to rigorously enforce rules without explanation when so many applications continue to slip through the cracks. The most obvious example is the “titillating content” Apple barred not so long ago, though exceptions were made for both Playboy and Sports Illustrated. As The Register points out, it could be Apple is attempting to streamline everything for the iPad launch, that perhaps the tools to make these apps work won’t be available on the tablet. Even then, why all the secrecy? Why not just say, “we don’t want people exploiting certain parts of our devices for personal use.”

A $1,000 app that’s worth the price…maybe

BarMax iPhone app.Remember that app called “I Am Rich,” the one that served no purpose other than making the developer a couple grand if people actually bought it. Apple pulled the app for the fear that a glut of such products would appear, polluting the App Store with useless junk. And yet, we still have fart apps.

Well there’s a new super-expensive app on the market, and it actually might be worth something. The app is called BarMax and it’s a preparatory tool for would be lawyers headed toward the bar exam. So why a grand? Well, the prep classes often cost as much as $4,000, so a 75% discount isn’t such a bad deal.

The coolest part of the app, in my non-litigating mind, is the audio lectures. The app itself is over a gig, which puts all sorts of papers on your phone, but you also get a huge selection of lectures to listen to. Good stuff.

iTunes Link

iPhone vs Nexus One cost of ownership

Superphone lineup.Shortly after the announcement of the Google Nexus One, BillShrink put together one of those nifty little charts as a cost comparison for the “next generation of smartphones.” (I’m glad to see it didn’t adopt Google’s new term: superphone.) The results read like yet another reason the iPhone needs to get off AT&T.

The cost of ownership for a top tier plan on the iPhone runs $3,799 over the course of your two year contract. The Nexus One, by comparison, is just $2,579, and that’s without the 5GB data cap. It’s an ugly stat for AT&T, which doesn’t even compete when you step down to an average plan. The total cost is still $500 more than the Nexus One.

The chart also throws in the Palm Pre and Verizon’s Motorola Droid, but now that the Nexus One is out I think we can pretty much forget about the droid. And the Pre? What’s that again?

Source: BillShrink

Joe Hewitt quits iPhone development because of Apple

Joe Hewitt.Joe Hewitt’s been unhappy with and outspoken about Apple’s app approval process since about the time he started working on the Facebook app. Well he’s finally had enough. According to a recent, tweet he’s done working on the app and ready to move on.

Time for me to try something new. I’ve handed the Facebook iPhone app off to another engineer, and I’m onto a new project.

Hewitt also said in very clear language that he left iPhone development because of Apple. Speaking to TechCrunch he said, “My decision to stop iPhone development has had everything to do with Apple’s policies. I respect their right to manage their platform however they want, however I am philosophically opposed to the existence of their review process.” As are a lot of people, but to this point no one with Hewitt’s resume has made the same decision (Arrington left the iPhone for a different reason and he’s not a developer).

Hewitt’s in a better position to “quit” then some developers, though. He’s got a swanky gig at Facebook, where he’ll still be developing after his announcement. A house like Tapulous, on the other hand, is making enough money off the App Store that it’s unlikely it will leave, and we probably wouldn’t hear about one of its developers quitting because of a philosophical opposition like Hewitt’s.

Instead we’ll probably continue to see the trickle of policy changes Apple has made over the last several months. The most recent allows developers to see real time status updates about the app, so when it’s sitting in “waiting for review” you can start throwing around some lawsuits.

App Store breaks 100,000 mark

Apps from the App Store.Today Apple announced that the App Store has breached the 100,000 mark. That’s right, more than 100,000 apps are available for your iPhone or iPod Touch. A solid 50% of those apps are strictly for replicating flatulence and then auto-tuning it to your favorite T-Pain beat.

In all seriousness, it’s another great milestone, and another great reason to reorganize the whole damn thing. This is probably the last time you’ll hear an app count out of me until the 500,000, at which point the numbers won’t even matter because of the hellacious mess the App Store will be in. It’s not that I can find something when I’m explicitly looking for it, but that it’s difficult to get the new and unmentioned stuff, the apps that don’t make the blog circuit. Those are the things I still want access to. Appoftheday made a decent start, but app organization needs more than just a community vote.

Apple allows in-app purchases for free apps

iPhone App Store. Apple has decided to lift yet another App Store restriction, one that has bloated the App Store (that app count isn’t entirely accurate) for some time. Developers are now allowed to have in-app purchases in free apps, a move that spells the demise of all those “lite” apps.

As things used to be, developers were required to charge for the download of an application if they also wanted to charge for content to be added later. By lifting the restriction, Apple has finally enabled developers to make just one version of an application that can then be unlocked through in app purchases.

I know this makes trial or limited downloads a lot more appealing. Downloading two apps for one purpose always seemed like a hassle to me. I’m glad things have finally turned the corner.

Adobe brings Flash to the iPhone

Adobe Flash on the iPhone.Where there’s a will there’s a way, and Adobe’s found one. The iPhone was the only smartphone on the market that couldn’t comply with Adobe’s designs for Flash on every handset. Apple has refused to budge, insisting that blocking Flash increases security for the phone. There’s probably some truth to that, but it also isn’t out of the question to think Apple might have its own reasons.

Well Adobe got sick of waiting for Apple to cooperate, so it developed away around Apple’s blockade. For now the fix comes in the form of an additional export method for Flash programs. One option supports Flash, the other makes the program usable on the iPhone. This really opens some doors for Apple developers who might have otherwise shifted to other platforms for support.

To me this is just another great example of taking the control out of Apple’s hands. Sure, Adobe had to play by Steve Jobs’ rules, but it was still able to roll out a product that will have significant impact on the goods available in the App Store. Now what’s holding up that Hulu app?