Banned Podcaster developer turns to hacked iPhone market

After Apple blocks rejected app, author sells to users who 'jail-break' their iPhones

The iPhone developer whose Podcaster application was rejected by Apple and banned from a beta-test distribution channel has turned to the hacked-phone market, he said today.

Through the Cydia installer, Alex Sokirynsky last week began selling Podcaster to iPhone owners who have hacked their phones to accept unauthorized third-party programs. Prior to the launch of Apple's App Store in July, the only way users could install non-Apple software on their iPhones was to modify them, or "jail-break" them, with one of several hacker tools.

Podcaster has been downloaded more than 16,000 times in its first week of availability, Sokirynsky said in an e-mail today. He is offering a 14-day free trial and selling activation codes for $4.99.

Last month, Sokirynsky used Apple's own Ad Hoc distribution service to sell over 1,000 copies of Podcaster at $9.99 each after Apple rejected his application to App Store, the only Apple-authorized iPhone online market.

Within days of launching Podcaster via Ad Hoc, however, Apple blocked Sokirynsky by shutting down his account. Ad Hoc was designed by Apple as a low-volume channel for distributing iPhone applications to beta testers, or for rolling out custom iPhone software within an enterprise.

That's when he turned to jail-broken iPhones. "It took less than a day to rework Podcaster," he said, referring to the time it took to tweak the application for Cydia, an open-source iPhone application installer. Sokirynsky declined to name sales figures for Podcaster, but he said he had had "some sales."

The new price is only half of what he was charging when he was distributing Podcaster via Ad Hoc. "I had to charge $9.99 before because it took so long (20 min.) to set up each user," Sokirynsky told a user last week on Twitter. "With Cydia, I don't have to do anything."

After Apple bumped him from Ad Hoc, Sokirynsky said he would port Podcaster to other mobile phone operating systems, including Google Inc.'s Android, which will power the G1 smart phone that T-Mobile Inc. is expected to launch later this month. Those plans now seem to be on hold, however.

"I did download the Android SDK, but I have not had any time to work with it," Sokirynsky said. "I am actually working on a new app for the App Store, [but] I am staying away from Apple's core business plan completely."

According to Sokirynsky, Apple turned down Podcaster because it duplicated some of the functionality of the company's iTunes music software.

Apple has not responded to several requests for comment on its App Store application process or using Ad Hoc to sell software.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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