This Is Apple At Its Very Worst

Sparrow Bird

Photo: tinyfishy via Flickr

One of our favourite iPhone apps of all time, Sparrow, a streamlined email app, just got a new update this morning.Click here to see Sparrow for iPhone in action >

The feature everyone has been waiting for, push email, is coming to a future version soon. 

Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay for it.


Apple won’t let Sparrow’s developers have access to its push servers, since that would directly mimic the functions of the iPhone’s built-in email app.

Apple’s rules bar developers from making apps that are fully-featured alternatives to its own apps. That’s why you can’t use third-party apps for web browsing, calendars, etc. by default.

(By the way, “push” is what happens when you get a notification as soon as a new email arrives.)

In a blog post, Sparrow says it had more than 16,000 users sign an online petition asking Apple to allow push in the app. We asked one of Sparrow’s developers, Dom Leca, about Apple’s response to the petition. He said it was a flat-out “no.”

However, Apple did say it could allow push in Sparrow in the future. We’re not going to hold out breath on that one.

Now Sparrow is forced to handle push on its own, which means it will have to use its own servers to do so. That comes with a cost. Sparrow will charge a yearly subscription for the service. Leca assured us the fee would be reasonable.

As we said last week, we hate that Apple blocks us from using alternative apps on the iPhone and iPad by default. This just demonstrates how Apple is using its control over the app store to not only block us from using an app we think is better, but also profit from it. Apple will take a cut of Sparrow’s push subscription once the feature is ready.

The result: fewer choices for iPhone users and a financial burden on the developer to bring a feature that should come standard.

Until recently, it wasn’t a big deal that Apple wouldn’t let us use alternative apps by default. Its built-in apps were the best. But now that developers like Sparrow are making apps that are better than Apple’s own, it’s becoming a big problem Apple is denying us from having a choice.

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