‘I Am Rich’ application for iPhone, iPod touch disappears from Apple’s App Store

“Apple has spit out a pit in its iTunes App Store, a controversial $999.99 ‘glorified screensaver,'” FOXNews reports.

“A glance Thursday of the store showed no offering for ‘I Am Rich,’ created by someone named Armin Heinrich. The app displays a glowing red gem on a user’s iPhone screen for the sole purpose of proving to onlookers one is of the moneyed class,” FOXNews reports.

“But on Wednesday, when the app was present in the iTunes store, a little pop-up message told us ‘I Am Rich’ is not available for sale to U.S. residents” FOXNews reports.

Full article here.

From what we can tell, “I Am Rich” did exactly what it was advertised and designed to do. If Apple yanked a perfectly working application out of their App Store because someone inside or outside Apple found it offensive, then they totally blew it; they’re completely in the wrong and sliding rapidly down a slippery slope. Forget about what the app does and what it costs. Those things are meaningless and only obscure the central fact: It is not Apple’s, nor anyone else’s, right or responsibility to decide if an app is worth buying or not.

If, however, Heinrich himself pulled it in order to try to grab a little NetShare-type pub, then more power to him. If he pulled it for any other reason, we have no problem with that either.

Again, the only issue we have is if Apple pulled the app for any reason other than it was somehow potentially physically harmful to iPhone and/or iPod touch run this benign little app. If Apple pulled it because they didn’t like the app’s intent and it offended them (as if a company that sells US$29 socks for iPods has any right to be offended), then their position is simply indefensible and they should make the “I Am RIch” app available again immediately.

Let the market decide, Apple.

One caveat: If people were mistakenly “buying” the appropriately-quite-expensive app via 1-Click, then Apple should figure out a way to prevent this from happening (perhaps institute an App Store 1-Click cost threshold and/or an “oops, quick delete my purchase” option available for a short timeframe for those using 1-Click) and then make the app available again.

Jason Kottke writes for kottke.org, “‘I Am Rich’ isn’t the most clever piece of art, but it’s not bad either. For some, the iPhone is already an obvious display of wealth and ‘I Am Rich’ is commenting on that. Plus, buying more than you need as an indication of wealth is practically an American core value for a growing segment of the population. Is paying $5000 for a wristwatch or $50,000 for a car when much cheaper alternatives exist really all that different than paying $1000 for an iPhone app?”

Kottke writes, “Excluding ‘I Am Rich’ would be excluding for taste…because some feel that it costs too much for what it does… App Store shoppers should get to make the choice of whether or not to buy an iPhone app, not Apple, particularly since the App Store is the only way to legitimately purchase consumer iPhone apps. Imagine if Apple chose which music they stocked in the iTunes store based on the company’s taste. No Kanye because Jay-Z is better. No Dylan because it’s too whiney. Of course they don’t do that; they stock a crapload of different music and let the buyer decide. We should deride Apple for that type of behavior, not cheering them on.”

Full article here.

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber explains another possibility, “If everyone who ‘buys’ this app is then demanding a refund or credit card chargeback, you can see why Apple, or perhaps its author, Armin Heinrich, would take the app down. And what makes me think it was Heinrich, not Apple, who pulled the app is that with the App Store, developers pay the refund fee. It’s entirely possible that Mr. Heinrich is already on the hook for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars in refund fees.”

Full article here.

72 Comments

  1. The one thing I could say for Apple (if they did pull it) is this: if I accidentally clicked on that “buy” button and spent $1k, I’d be REALLY pissed about it.

    However, for some kinds of very specific apps for a specific group, I could see $100+ for an app. So… perhaps Apple should build in a threshold of say $20, and any app that costs more than that should have additional warnings in place before one can purchase it. That way the unwary consumer is protected, but Apple’s not censoring developers and at what price they choose to market their apps.

  2. Whoever is running and reviewing the third party APPS at Apple better quickly get their head out of their ARSE and do the proper job of reviewing these things before they go up on the store.

    If either the APP is harmful, offensive, or violates some type of TOS it should never get up there in the first place.

    Shame on Apple – this clearly shows they are learning as they go…

  3. You have to hand it to Armin, though. He likely made a $5000-10000 profit in the few hours it was on the storefront. And if Apple did cut the app out – good going to all those dorks who complained Apple was too ‘lenient’ in allowing apps in the store, who all now inevitably claim Apple are too ‘draconian’.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, eh?

    Stuff like this obliterates the whole point of the AppStore. Afterall, for all the people who hate death metal/marilyn manson etc, Apple isn’t exactly pulling ‘controversial’ artists from iTunes, is it?

  4. That guy who bought it thinking it was a joke. I wonder if I can sell him something!

    As for Apple Pulling Apps, it’s their store. They can sell what they want. Steve said from the beginning there would be selectivity.

  5. I disagree with MDN’s take.

    I think Apple should have taken it off. It really makes Apple look like fools to host such an app.

    What happens if a person is looking at the app, and accidentally clicks Buy, or a friend is playing a prank on another friend’s iPhone and clicks Buy. Oops – there goes 1k. Hope you didn’t need it.

    Nope, this person was making a fool of Apple and iPhone owners…

  6. “He likely made a $5000-10000 profit in the few hours”

    I can’t imagine anyone stupid enough to have paid for that app. However if they did, it’s their business and their money. Apple may have received complaints, but if so should release info on why this or any app is removed. The “disappearing” has too much of a dictatorship feel to it.

  7. @ Cubert,

    I think the app was up for about 6-10 hours, so he could’ve made a really tidy profit from even a small number. of clicks.

    The AppStore needs more Armin Heinrichs, I reckon. Inventive, entertaining apps that in no way harm the iPhone’s operation or cell network.

    If Apple expand their remit beyond the above criteria, do you think people will be pleased about it, honestly? If iTunes allows artists of every conceivable stripe, then the AppStore should operate the exact same way.

    Now, think of the kudos you’ll get when flashing your $123,000 diamond encrusted iPhone with the I Am Rich app!

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