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iPhone Dev Spends $500k on Development, Still Not Approved by Apple

Apple’s App Store is an interesting, exciting and frightening place all at the same time. iPhone application developer Chris Nikkel knows this first hand. His application “Newber” has spent nearly 75 days waiting for approval from Apple, and he has yet to hear a word.

Chris Nikkel and FreedomVoice Systems have spent nearly half a million dollars on marketing and developing Newber. The application is aimed at allowing users to seamlessly redirect incoming calls to any surrounding phones. Sound complicated? Yes. Useful? Could be. As their website states, “Simply key in a landline phone number at your location, then toggle between taking your business calls on that phone or your iPhone. Newber will automatically detect this phone each time you return to that location, allowing you to change phones with one touch. You can even swap phones in the middle of a live call without interrupting the conversation.” In a nutshell, if you’re walking into your home or office on an important call, and your iPhone’s battery is running low or your reception is poor, with Newber, simply transfer the call to your landline and pick up where you left off.

Chris Nikkel has not been able to establish a constructive line of communication with Apple. Since investing nearly five-hundred thousand dollars in the development and marketing of Newber, they still have not been accepted into the App Store. We reached out to Chris Nikkel and FVS Corporate with some questions about their approach and experience with the app store. Here is the Q&A exchange verbatim (Our questions are in bold).

Who’s concept/idea is Newber?

Chris Nikkel, Director of R & D for FreedomVoice Systems, came up with the concept of Newber after listening to the speech by Steve Jobs where he announced the App Store. He was inspired by Apple’s innovation and decided to try to apply it to the types of problems that FreedomVoice Systems is known for solving.

What makes you think that Apple, and not AT&T is stopping this from begin accepted? They could potentially be missing out on revenue by customers choosing lower priced packages with the intention of using Newber.

There are already other apps in the App Store that allow you to try to avoid AT&T’s network by utilizing VoIP. These apps directly emphasize their benefits over AT&T like cheaper rates for foreign calling. If they got through the App Store process, then I can’t imagine why Newber would be any different to AT&T.

What technical reason do you think is holding up Newber from being accepted? And if you were told to change some things, would you?

It’s hard to speculate on the reasons why Apple might be holding this up, since their past history has been so inconsistent. We really want to work with Apple and AT&T to enable their customers to be more productive. If they would communicate the issue they are having, we would be more than willing to do everything we could to help resolve it. The fact we haven’t got any information on how we can help move our product through the approval process is really discouraging.

If this does not ever get accepted into the App Store, will you be rolling it out on other platforms like Android?

Yes. Whether or not the application is received by the App Store, we intend to take the application to other platforms. There’s simply too much positive feedback about the application for us not to find some way to get it to the public. Work has already begun on Blackberry, and other platforms are sure to follow.

Right now is Apple’s opportunity to be the first to market with Newber and empower their smartphone to be an innovative business device.

Is FreedomVoice Systems the company funding the development?

Newber is a product fully funded and developed by FreedomVoice Systems. We have been in business for over 10 years providing telephony solutions to small businesses.

Over $500k is an astronomical amount of money, was there ever a moment when you thought maybe you were investing too much into an uncertain future? Did you ever have any doubts about the application process before, or during initial development?

The type of product we are trying create requires not only writing a piece of software for the iPhone, but also setting up custom in-house servers to handle the call traffic. It’s not the sort of thing you could do as a weekend project, and certainly not without the funding we’ve invested.

We definitely discussed several contingencies for getting rejected from the App Store, but not being stalled indefinitely. We had heard some horror stories about applications being denied for anomalous reasons, but we were encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received from our Beta testers.

All along we’ve felt that Newber was aligned with Apple’s direction of making the iPhone a more business-ready smartphone. The apps that we’ve seen enter the App Store in the Business category all seemed to be more like gadgets, calculators, and voice recorders. We feel that a truly helpful business application like Newber should not meet strong resistance from Apple.

What marketing have you done thus far?

• Booth at CTIA ShowStoppers on September 9th, 2008.
• Booth at CES Unveiled on November 11th, 2008.
• Plan to have a booth at MacWorld ShowStoppers on January 4th, 2009.
• Plan to have a booth at CES on January 8-11, 2009.
• Launch of a product site, www.mynewber.com.
• Supporting a limited beta that includes a combination of bloggers, media, and targeted users.
• Outreach to build relationships with top media sources: (Gizmodo, TMCnet)

As far as the technology is concerned, how are the calls transferred seamlessly?

All of your business calls go through the new phone number we give you, your Newber. When you decide to move a call to another phone, we initiate a call to the new phone. As soon as you answer, the call has transferred. The process is transparent to the person with whom you are speaking and requires no interruption in your conversation.

In a nutshell, what would you like to see Apple change in the App Store, or the approval process as it currently is?

If they want to make the process work, they need to be more consistent in enforcing the rules that they have established to help companies like ours plan a strategy to bring innovative products to market. In addition, they need to communicate with the developers to help them get their applications into the store. Rather than “rejecting” an application, it would be better if Apple just told the developer what to change to get it into the store.

In summing up, if there’s anything you’d like to let fellow developers know about your experience/process in order to help them in the future, please feel free (obviously respecting your confidentiality).

I don’t think the time has come where developers should completely give up on the device. Recently, Apple has opened up the door a bit more and let in some of the apps that were previously rejected. I think that developers should continue to encourage Apple to make improvements to the App Store and its approval process. It’s the software that forms a customer’s experience and determines whether a platform will succeed. It would be wise for Apple to follow the lead of its developers and open up better lines of communication.

Newber has spent nearly two and a half months in App Store limbo. With no word from Apple, Chris Nikkel doesn’t know if they will ever be approved. Developers have recently begun speaking up about their concerns with Apple’s app store. As we delve deeper into Apple’s thought process with the App Store, communication will play a big part in the entire platform’s success.

Comments [25]

25 Comments to “iPhone Dev Spends $500k on Development, Still Not Approved by Apple”

yaya @ December 17th, 2008 at 8:44 am
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This might the most intimate and heartfelt dev interview I’ve read yet. The sad thing is, Newber is incredibly useful. It could be a top app if Apple would just let it through.

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calmwinds @ December 17th, 2008 at 8:47 am
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$500k is a TON of money, yes. But it’s not that much when dealing with big telecom and monthly rates like this. It’s the age old mantra (charge a ton of people, a little bit of money each month), then you’re rich.

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John Johnson @ December 18th, 2008 at 6:05 am
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Another product similar to Newber is iCall… according to their facebook page they have been in limbo as well for approximately 2.5 months.

http://www.icall.com/iphone/

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p@r@noid @ December 18th, 2008 at 3:18 pm
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I heard this was a great application for VOIP… I would love to see it get accepted into the app store personally.. From the sound of what it can do it looks awesome…

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steve @ December 18th, 2008 at 11:01 pm
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Think twice… this story has a spin on it! Look at the important bit of this article:

> All of your business calls go through the new phone number we give you, your Newber.

Who are these guys, the ones who can now listen to business calls? Should Apple just let them go ahead? Half a million is nothing compared to what they could get!

Newber are probably good guys with absolutely no malicious intent whatsoever. However this is a loophole that simply cannot be explored, and Apple have no choice in this situation.

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klang @ December 19th, 2008 at 12:54 am
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> All of your business calls go through the new phone number we give you, your Newber.

No phone level encryption layer (OpenSSL .. user access to source is important here), no sale. Sorry ..

If this takes off, everybody will know, that all calls are monitored.

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stnow @ December 19th, 2008 at 1:21 am
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A company that invests that much money on a telephony related iPhone product without first working a deal out with at&t and apple is missing a screw. There are so many apps that apple would never approve that are tons more interesting and useful than Newber.

Look, new iphone devs, get a clue, no podcasting, no telephony, no email, no sms, stop whining.

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Stefan LH @ December 19th, 2008 at 5:10 am
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The point everyone is missing here is that the whole concept only works when they are making VoIP calls through the mobile data network (UMTS or GPRS, not just wifi) which Apple EXPLICITLY prohibits in the terms of service.

Before investing half a million dollars one would assume, that they at least READ the terms.

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John Johnson @ December 22nd, 2008 at 12:20 pm
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That is not true. You are misunderstanding the developer terms.

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David Knell @ December 19th, 2008 at 1:20 pm
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Half a million bucks? Even though some of that’s for marketing, it’s still a huge amount for what’s a pretty simple application. Just for comparison, the application described at http://wiki.softivr.com/index.php/Follow_me took me a couple of hours to bash together today, and does essentially the same job..

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Augusto @ December 21st, 2008 at 9:47 pm
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People are missing the point here, the issue highlights why Apple’s closed nature is bad for consumers and 3rd parties. The fact that they have failed to even talk with these guys just showcases why developing apps for more open systems like Android make more sense in the long term.

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Nick Gowdy @ December 22nd, 2008 at 12:59 pm
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I feel there is some misinformation present. To clarify –

@steve/klang: Newber was created by FreedomVoice Systems, a CLEC that has been in business for over 12 years offering small and medium-sized business telecom solutions. Calls are not monitored or recorded. On the topic of privacy, your location information is not stored, either.

@stnow: “Look, new iphone devs, get a clue, no podcasting, no telephony, no email, no sms, stop whining.” You may well have just said, “no useful business applications — enjoy your Voice Recorders.” But then how do you explain phone apps like TruPhone?

@Stefan LH: Newber does not place calls using WiFi or VOIP over the mobile data network. Calls coming into Newber use a combination of PSTN and your device’s carrier network. In the event of taking calls on your iPhone, that means AT&T’s cellular network.

@David Knell: Your mistake seems to be equating Newber with single-user dynamic call forwarding based on location. Newber was designed to be a unified business communications solution. It effectively adds a unique business line to your iPhone, supports that line with reliable, business-quality service, supports distinct visual voicemail, supports distinct business favorites, and supports outbound dialing with the business number showing on caller ID. Oh, and it does location-based routing, too.

But the utility of the application is not the problem here. If Newber were without value, or if the application is in conflict with clear submission guidelines (and it’s not), this wouldn’t be an issue — Newber, iCall, and many similar applications would simply get rejected. But this isn’t the case. Instead, these applications hang in limbo without any meaningful communication from Apple. It’s reaching the point where a rejection would be a welcome sight. At the very least, it would let us know where we stand and how we can move forward (even if that means taking our business to a different mobile platform).

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beer @ April 6th, 2009 at 9:35 pm
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Could you be any less of a FVS poser?

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John @ April 12th, 2009 at 1:08 pm
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How is he a poser? He admits to working for the company. And even if he were a poser, so what? That invalidates his arguments …how? Glad I sold my iPhone and switched to the Android. Not to say that the iPhone is bad. Far from it. It’s Apple’s policies that give me pause.

3pm studios @ December 23rd, 2008 at 2:49 pm
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This is a sad and frustrating story. I feel fortunate to have two apps: Preschool Pals with Henry and Hailey and also ABC game with Henry and Hailey. Each app took about 2 days to be approved. I can not imagine waiting 75 days. Both of my apps are in the top 50 paid apps in the education category. I’ve had a great experience with the app store and am sad to hear that it has been difficult for others.

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iphone developer @ February 26th, 2009 at 10:27 pm
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Hi,

Want to share some quality time with your friends at a bar? Don’t know the nearest bar in your locality? Relax and let the awesome Bars and Pubs iPhone application do the findings for you. The Bars and Pubs application allows you to find the nearest bars and pubs located in your locality. With a single tap you can now find the exact location of nearest bar. It is probably one of the most convenient and useful Lifestyle application ever developed for the iPhone platform.

Regards
Margareth

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Dan @ March 20th, 2009 at 6:34 pm
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Apple probably wouldnt mind but ATT dont want there customers traffic going through a proxy, so Apple puts it on the shelf to stop it actively being developed for Android et all.

Jobs genius again…

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Watch out for freedom voice @ June 30th, 2009 at 6:12 pm
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Freedom Voice Systems and Freedom IQ are likely in financial trouble. Their services are average and their fax service is no longer offered for sale at this time due to a quality delivery issues. The team is rather passive agressive and you can not get anyone on the phone. Everything is email and that perpetuates everything. Much of what they offer is in theory. They should forget the apple app and start delivering the service they have clents paying fo and are not getting.

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Iphone Application Developers @ October 9th, 2009 at 11:49 pm
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The point everyone is missing here is that the whole concept only works when they are making VoIP calls through the mobile data network (UMTS or GPRS, not just wifi) which Apple EXPLICITLY prohibits in the terms of service.

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aks @ December 13th, 2009 at 4:54 am
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watch the TOS of the apple.

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iphone developer @ January 6th, 2010 at 9:01 pm
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Wow that is a lot to spend on development for such a arbitrary app. I can’t imagine it changing anyones life, and to cut even he would have to sell so many. In my opinion, I think this might be a publicity stunt, to create attention and a interesting story. Who knows though, I wish him luck!

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Tech Review @ January 28th, 2010 at 3:55 am
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iPhone development is really getting popular amongst many development companies and they already focus to developed strategic applications for users

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iPhone Application Developer @ March 8th, 2010 at 1:32 am
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Apple is really choosy when approved any applications. I must say you have to try again. You will be surely success.

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Gadget Review @ April 9th, 2010 at 10:12 pm
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very big amount for iphone dev

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