Google yanks PhoneFusion app from Android Market

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) unceremoniously dumped developer PhoneFusion's popular Visual Voicemail application from its Android Marketplace storefront, citing a violation of its developer payment guidelines. While details on Google's decision remain scarce, GigaOM reports PhoneFusion believes Visual Voicemail's removal is a result of the developer processing payments via channels outside of Google Checkout. In an email sent to the developer last week, Google cites a violation of section 3.3 of the Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement, which reads "If you want to collect fees after the free trial expires, you must collect all fees for the full version of the Product through the Payment Processor on the Market. In this Agreement, ‘free' means there are no charges or fees of any kind for use of the Product. All fees received by Developers for Products distributed via the Market must be processed by the Market's Payment Processor."

A short statement issued by Google does little to resolve Visual Voicemail's fate: "We remove applications from Android Market that violate our terms of service," the digital service giant explains. First introduced on the Android platform two years ago and since downloaded by over a million consumers, Visual Voicemail is a free application, with revenues dependent on premium features like voicemail transcription and ad-free service options; PhoneFusion processes payments through its own website, fueling speculation the app's dismissal is the result of Google more closely enforcing Android Market's Google Checkout policies. Google rival Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) recently introduced a new subscription platform for all content-based applications in its App Store storefront, claiming 30 percent of subscription revenues as well as ownership of consumer data like names and email addresses. Additionally, Apple said publishers and developers may no longer provide external links in their applications to allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

"It looks like they're pulling an Apple but just for us," PhoneFusion executive vice president Jonathan Hollander told GigaOM. "There was no warning that they're going to enforce this, which make it worse than Apple. Even if you disagree with Apple, they gave until June to remove their apps. Here, there's no choice."

In January, Google removed gaming website Kongregate's Arcade mobile application from Android Market, contending the browser-based solution--which gives Android smartphone users access to over 300 free Flash-based games--was illicitly installing apps. "The reason for the removal, and we didn't find out until after it was already gone, was that they claim you can't use their app store to distribute another app store--which is a reasonable restriction," Kongregate CEO Jim Greer said. "But to us, what's really bizarre, to call [Kongregate Arcade] an 'app store' seems like a pretty extreme stretch... It's a regular Android browser using WebKit. And WebKit loads the Flash file from the cache and you play the game in the browser, then you head back and you can play another game. So, it's all essentially cached content delivered in a browser, which to me is just bizarre that that would be considered an 'app store.'" Kongregate successfully resubmitted Arcade to Android Market after making several tweaks to bring the app in line with Google's rules.

For more:
- read this GigaOM article

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