4 apps that Apple banned only to “steal” their features with the next iOS update


Apple is huge, there’s no denying that. The company has made a name for itself by selling premium-design products that have a simple workflow and “just work”. Of course, to achieve that, its devices are a bit more “limited” in terms of tinkering and customizability. The ecosystem is closed off and if you don’t like how a certain feature works — it’s tough luck, you probably won’t be able to dig behind the scenes and change it (unless you feel adventurous and jailbreak).

But, over the years, some crafty app developers have found their way around some locked doors and presented us with features, which weren’t exactly intended to be on iOS. Sometimes, it turns out that these are widely liked by a lot of users, and they gain popularity quickly. And then, in comes Apple to ban them, because they mess with the user experience, which the company has carefully crafted. But controversy stirs when the next iOS update actually has the very features, which the banned apps provided for the users.

Yeah, we can remember 4 such occasions. Here they are:

Camera+ and the VolumeSnap feature

Back in the distant days of the iPhone 4, the volume button did not double as a shutter key for the camera app, believe it or not. Developer “tap tap tap” was first to add the feature to its well-known app Camera+ back then. However, that quickly resulted in the app being pulled from the App Store. Apple said that changing the way the iPhone’s external hardware works may confuse users. Makes sense, sure, and it does sound like a very Apple thing to say. However, once the iPhone 4s launched, and iOS 5 with it, the volume button shutter was actually added as a regular feature!

All is fine now, however, as tap tap tap’s Camera+ has been reinstated on the App Store and is one of the most popular 3rd party camera apps to date.

Download Camera+ here

f.lux and Night Shift

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the rise of the “blue light filters”. Utility tools, which filter out the blue light coming from our screens, which research shows is a primary reason for low-quality sleep. These usually kick in after sunset to ease the strain on our eyes.

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Sounds familiar, right? The iPhone has it, the Samsung Galaxies have it, LG and Motorola have it, and a lot more manufacturers do it now. Arguably, the trend really kicked off with the f.lux controversy.

f.lux was already popular on Windows and Mac when the developers decided to port it for iOS. Now, due to the fact that the app needs special APIs to control the screen colors, it was never going to make it on the App Store. That’s why the developers released it as a downloadable file for sideloading. It gained popularity quickly, but Apple was fast to axe it, contacting the developers and “asking” them to remove the download link.

Lo and behold, when iOS 9.3 landed, iPhones and iPads got a feature called “Night Shift” — a blue light filter, just like f.lux. After this controversy raised awareness about the benefits of the feature, other manufacturers followed suit and added it to their new phones, so we guess the outcome is positive for the users?

Finder for AirPods

When the iPhone 7 launched without a headphone jack and the AirPods were announced, everyone started making jokes about how Apple is forcing consumers to buy earbuds that will be easily lost and would need replacing regularly. We’re not sure about them falling off our ears just like that, but sure — it’s possible that you can bury an AirPod under a stack of papers on your desk.

A crafty developer launched Finder for AirPods — an app that allowed you to locate your lost Pod thanks to a signal bar, which showed you how close you are to it. However, it was very quickly pulled by Apple, who stated that the “App is not appropriate for the App Store”.

Two weeks after the ordeal, Apple launched the first public beta for iOS 10.3. Yep, you guessed it right, the Find my iPhone app now has an integrated AirPod tracker as well.

Coolpixel and screen recording

Coolpixel launched back in December of 2016. It’s a camera recorder and video editor, which also is somehow capable of recording your phone’s screen. That’s a pretty big feat, as screen recording on the iPhone or iPad is only possible if you hook the device up to a Mac right now.

With native screen recording coming with iOS 11, you can probably already guess what Coolpixel’s fate is. The app has been removed from the App Store once. Then, the tenacious developer managed to upload it again. Then, it was taken down again.

So, yeah, unless you have the iOS 11 public beta, you’ll need to wait for it to launch before you can record your iPhone or iPad screen. Sorry.

Note: turns out there are quite a few screen recording apps for iOS out there. All of them keep getting booted from the App Store, though

Can you think of any other occasions where Apple banned an app, only to incorporate its features afterwards? Let us know in the comments!

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