After $500,000 in development costs, FreedomVOICE has abandoned the Beta test of Newber, an application which blended the best of VoIP and location awareness to allow users to direct calls to various phones. The app even allows you to swap calls from phone to phone mid-conversation.
Newber was submitted to Apple on October 2, 2008 and after 165 days, Apple has not approved the application and worse it won't tell FreedomVoice anything. Interestingly Apple did approve the company's other application IQ Voicemail in about a month according to the company so there is something about the Newber app that Apple doesn't like.
Eric Thomas the CEO of the company writes about the situation and pins the blame on a middle manager at Apple. While I can't verify who is responsible for putting the approval process in limbo I surmise that there is fear in the company that this application will take revenue away from AT&T and thus reduce the amount of money it can make selling service on the phone which in turn reduces the subsidy Apple might receive on each device.
I feel for FreedomVoice and I think what Apple is doing is terrible to developers who end up in the no man's land between approval and denial. I also think that Apple lock on the App Store stinks for end users. But on balance, the iPhone/iPod Touch platform has tens of thousands of applications and no other device even compares.
So the question worth asking is can Apple please give developers some sort of playbook before they start spending their money to better the iPhone? The fact that Apple doesn't do this makes you wonder if there is something Apple/AT&T are worried about - perhaps their comments on why an app doesn't fly can be used against them in the future by the EU, DOJ or in a class-action suit? One wonders why Apple would want to endure any bad press with such a successful product.