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If you've ever wanted a clear idea of how opposed Apple is to the idea of customizable interfaces, consider the case of poor Themer, which was pulled from Google Play earlier this month following a copyright claim from Apple. The offender? According to TechCrunch, it's a little Android skin called Seven that mimicked the look of Apple's latest mobile operating system for devotees of Cupertino's mobile arch rival.
Fair enough, but shutting down the entire app seems a bit drastic (and it hardly seems like the best way to win over new iPhone users). Seven, which looks well-designed based on screenshots from Lifehacker's coverage back in October, was but one of the 200 themes available through the app. The app appealed to users who loved Android's customization features (i.e., its ability to do things like this) and the simplicity of Jony Ive's new look for iOS.
And it's clearly Google that's behind the app removal, says Themer co-founder and CEO Ashvin Dhingra. "We immediately removed [the Seven] theme and thought that, at worst, Themer would be back on Play in a few days," Dhingra told TechCrunch. "But now a week later, we’re facing the possibility that a few days might turn into a few weeks."
On the bright side, Apple itself doesn't sound like it was as heavy-handed as the circumstances might suggest. "We've spoken to legal representatives from Apple (who have been very nice, reasonable, and helpful), and they have no remaining concerns," said Dhingra. "But apparently, Google has a process for these things, and there’s nothing we can do to accelerate that process. Unfortunately, we still have not heard from anyone at Google."
It's possible, oddly enough, that the swift removal and total lack of communication from Google despite Themer's compliance has a lot to do with the "Wild West" approach Google assumes with Google Play, as it doesn't have the dedicated approval team that Apple does. That's great when devs just want to get an app on the store, but the practice's weaknesses show up in cases like this. As of right now, there's no telling when Android users will see Themer again--and that's bad for both Dhingra's team and Apple's image.
Follow this article's writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.