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Friday
Jul312009

App Store Issues

Recently, my friends and I have been talking about issues with the Apple iPhone App Store. Since there are lots of other articles about this, I thought it would be a good idea for me to join in.



I'd like to begin with two case studies:

My first case study is the story of a friend's app. He submitted, and the app was found to have some bugs. After multiple submissions and a rewrite, the app was then submitted and approved. After releasing this app, my friend found a rather large bug in the app  (that had been missed in the approval process) which he then corrected, re-submitted and was then approved.

My second case study is my own story. My app was submitted, and within a week had been denied due to a UI issue. This was corrected and then re-submitted. Within another week or so, my app was approved. Since then, I have sent an update which took about 4 weeks to be approved. This length of time can be attributed to the timing (near the release of the iPhone 3GS), and due to an error on Apple's part.

So what's the main issue with the App Store?

Consistency.

Consistency is the major issue that the App Store faces. It has this in three directions. First of all, consistency between approvals. If both my friend and I were to submit our apps at the same time, would they be looked at by the same person? Probably not. Would one person find issues that another might not? Probably. That's where the issue lies. It has never been guaranteed that the person approving your app has the same standard for quality as the person in the office or cubicle next to them. I believe that this can be corrected.

The second direction is the approval process throughout the life of an app. An app can be viewed by one person and placed on the app store. Two months later, the app can be viewed by someone else who deems the app inappropriate and then is removed from the app store. This isn't helpful and has recently frustrated users. A good example of this was when Tweetie released its an update with a list of trends inside. One of the trends was a swearword and therefore seen to be offensive. It was then denied from the App store. I believe that this can be corrected also.

The third direction is the ability of Apple to pull any previously approved app for any reason it sees fit. This originally started with a complaint by AT&T based on Netshare. More recently this has caused issues with the Google Voice application. Often when one of these apps is pulled, the developer gets no information as to why the app has been pulled and what actions need to be taken to redistribute it. One major obvious point is that many of these application pullings may be due to complaints from carriers. While I don't think that this can be solved completely, I do believe that Apple can do something to make the process smoother.

The Solution.

The solution I'm about to lay out may not actually be feasible, but I believe it would make the App store a happier place.

  1. Hire more people and take these people through training so that there is a base level of acceptance.

  2. Make an application have two approvers. Every application would be checked by two people.

  3. If the two approvers disagree on the decision of the application, it should be sent to a super-approver. This person would be able to see all notes taken by the previous approvers and would be able to veto either way. This will ensure that for any discrepancies any applications will be seen by a "select" few, who would be able to make a consistent decision.

  4. Ensure that all previous notes for an application are carried through with an application. If possible, try to ensure that the same two people see the updates to applications. This will help to ensure that any updates to an application have an understanding of all previous issues before.

  5. Ensure that the "App pulling" process has enough transparency. I understand the need for some confidentiality in some of these cases. For example, AT&T probably don't want to tarnish their name even more at the moment. However, something along the lines of
    Your application was removed the App store due to a complaint received from a carrier. The complaint deals with the your app's ability to...and can be remedied as so...

    I believe this would solve the issue of transparency and would at least offer a glimpse into the reasoning behind any application removal.


If at least some of these changes are done, then it should help the development process.

Apple needs to solve the issues it's been having with the App store otherwise there may be a revolt from some developers.

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