Apple is telling developers that they can't use the Core Location framework to deliver location-specific ads to iPhones, iPods and iPads, according to the News and Announcements page
at Apple's iPhone Dev Center, and says that offending apps will not pass review by the App Store. At the same time, however, recent patent applications show a number of advertising and sales-related uses for location-based services on the iPhone.
The Dev Center's blog posting today highlighted Core Location features, which provide the interface for allowing apps to access location and compass information. The posting warns, however, that devs must "make sure these features provide beneficial information." Any app that fails to meet this (somewhat vague and subjective) standard "will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification before it can be posted to the App Store."
Observers are questioning, though, whether this is Apple merely trying to provide ad-free experiences to its customer base, or avoid potential competition in the mobile ad business. Apple recently acquired Quattro Wireless, a mobile advertising provider, after allegedly making an effort to buy AdMob: the mobile ad firm that was bought by Google. And a number of its recent patents show that a significant part of Apple's research and development is going towards location-based advertising using their devices' GPS technology.
The Register points out an Apple patent application
called "Graphical User Interface with Location-Specific Interface Elements
," which would allow users to buy media that was being played in a given location, like background music or video in a store. Another patent called "Location-Based Services
," actually does provide advertising based on where the phone is in the form of a custom hyperlink, saying that "in some implementations, selecting the hyperlink triggers a sending of the coupon or other information (e.g., an advertisement) associated with the business to, for example, an email address of the user of the device."
More recently, a patent application released this week
described a way that users could share their current location with another iPhone user that they're in the middle of a phone call with using the two phones' GPS data.