A little more than a year has passed since Apple opened the doors to it’s AppStore back in July 2008, and the amount of love and hate alike in blogs all around the internet is showing the huge impact it had on the mobile applications market. After jailbreakers invented the process of providing additional software during the first revision of the iPhone, and, back from what was just a handful of apps at the time of its official release, the AppStore has grown ever since, encompassing over 65.000 apps by now, increasing this number day by day at a very high rate.
Something has been slowing down the growth, though. And surprisingly enough, that “something” is no one else but Apple itself.
During its short life of only one year so far, the AppStore – or more precisely, the approval policy of Apple – has been the target of criticism and numerous complaints coming from the press, the developers and even from the customers. While being unmistakenly the current most successful distribution network for mobile devices that is targeted at only one specific device, it is also the most curious if not politically influenced one.
Apple has made sure in their developer/distribution agreement that each application being submitted for distribution to the AppStore has to undergo a number of review processes before approval for release is given. According to Apple, this is done to make sure that the applications won’t be of any harmful nature, will be according to Apples very strict policies, and will not confuse and/or “lie” to it’s customers including duplicating the iPhone’s functionality.
While the official explanation for the aprovment policy sounds like it’s a fair and square deal, the truth seems to be very far from it.
Apple has repeatedly shown inability to be consistent in their approval process, up to the point where applications would first get the green light and be released to public, then suddenly – while reviewing an update to that same application – would lose the approval, stating as the reason for the rejection a state/fact that had been true for the earlier version just as much, only to see the app being approved again a few days later, with nothing having changed in terms of the application itself. This has made many developers question the competence of Apple’s reviewing team, that appearently isn’t very good at communicating between each other.
The real issue is not the competence of the reviewing personal though, to say the least. That could easily pass as starting troubles, seeing as the AppStore has only been online for a year now, and the team is still in the process of getting the subtle feeling to handle such situations.
The problem seems to be a few “higher authorities” that will actually abuse the policy to block an application from being released for very political, and not at all technical reasons. This seems to have been the issue numerous times in the past already (Skype being only allowed to make voice-calls when the iPhone is connecting over WiFi and the recent release of the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone OS 3.0 and it’s subsequent disapproval of all applications that will enhance the quality of the digital camera shots even though those apps had been approved already long ago, just to name two of these events).
“People are so annoyed by Apple and their shit, and if you give them opportunity to go around it, then they’ll even pay for it,” said Kim Streich, a developer whose app 3G Unrestrictor earned $19,000 in sales in just two weeks through Cydia.
Members of the development scene had been crying for a more transparent criteria catalogue so that they would be able to make sure not to waste their time on something that will never get approved anyway, and the customers had been crying for the apps they had so much hoped for when they bought their iPhone and had been missing from their older smartphones since then.
Recently though, Apple had made that same mistake again, by first approving the application for the brandnew service from Google (Google Voice, still in closed beta), only to remove it from the AppStore immediately again, including several other applications that had similar functionality and had been selling well in the AppStore for almost four months already.
This time, the wave throughout the internet was much bigger than it had been in the past. And one can’t even say it’s because of the name “Google” being a part of it, because the first time Google had been mentioned together with the words “Apple” and “rejected” was back when Google had developed an iPhone application to access it’s Latitude service, but then got asked from Apple to develop it as a web-application instead, to avoid confusion with it’s own Google Maps application.
No, the wave is not much bigger because of what exactly happened, but simply because of how many times it happened by now. Developers simply dont want to take it anymore, as long-term investments into the development of iPhone applications is as safe as betting your money on horses.
Some developers and iPhone users aren’t taking the rejection lying down: They’re turning instead to an unauthorized app store called Cydia, where forbidden wares continue to exist — and even earn developers some money.