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Mark Damon Hughes

MDH's Software Blog

The iPhone App Store Blues 2009-08-30 02:42:00 GMT
in iphonedev
by Mark Damon Hughes

The iPhone App Store has some great opportunities, but also great problems for developers.

First, I agree with pretty much everything Craig Hockenberry, Marco Arment, Wil Shipley, Joe Hewitt, John Gruber, and Steven Frank said about the problems over the last year.

Quick summary of iPhone development right now:

  1. Buy a Mac, $599 for a Mac Mini or more for something good.
  2. Get a development certificate, $99.
  3. Install Xcode & iPhone SDK, and learn Objective-C and Cocoa (may be optional, if all you want to do is make fart apps).
  4. Write iAwesome, the Awesome iPhone App.
  5. Go to iTunes Connect, which is the worst-designed business webapp I've ever used in my entire life, and attempt to correctly upload your app, a description, icon, screenshots, and price before it times out and leaves a corrupted database entry. I seriously consider it likely that iTunes Connect was a malicious attempt to dispirit record company flunkies who had to use it to upload music; developers suffering are just friendly fire.
  6. Wait for app review and "approval". Roll d100 on this table:
    01-10 Rejected outright, can resubmit when you "fix" it.
    11-40 Approved in 5-8 days.
    41-80 Approved in 9-14 days.
    81-95 Approved in 15-60 days.
    96-00 Will not be approved unless a major media outlet covers the delay.

    You will receive no feedback from Apple during this time. If you call or write, they will tell you "your app is taking an unusually long time for review." No, really?

  7. If approved, your app will appear at the worst possible time, and nobody will see it on the new apps list. Hope you can market it elsewhere, not that anyone buys except from new apps list. Good luck making a profit.
  8. GOTO 4

iTunes Connect has shat on me multiple times, and I have a permanently(?) useless "APPLE DELETE THIS DUNGEON DICE" row; they can or will do nothing about it.

The approval process has rejected me once for something sort of valid: Use of a standard control in a way it wasn't meant to be used. The other rejection was for something so completely insane it still baffles me and makes me drink: I can't upsell directly from my free Lite apps to the full versions of Perilar and Castles. I can't say "Hooray, you beat the easy mode, Castles $4.99 version has challenge and nightmare!". Well, shit. Advertising without details on the front of the app has been allowed, but I'm not happy about it, and it doesn't drive as much upsell as I'd like.

Everyone I've spoken to who's published an iPhone app has had equally stupid experiences with both.

Fixing iTunes Connect really isn't that hard. Apple needs to assign a good web developer to it for a month, to rewrite the front end.

The only way to fix the approval process is to eliminate or castrate it.

Let these be the rules: If the app doesn't obviously crash, isn't doing anything obviously illegal, and seems appropriately age-rated, publish it. Period. If Apple gets a bunch of crash reports, or it seems to be flooding the phone network by sending your contact list to Russia, unpublish it. Apple knows who created the app, it's signed with your dev certificate, so they know who to send the FBI or KGB or lawyers after.

"But! What about…?", you ask?


If parents scream that little Timmy saw boobies in iBoobz (rated age 4+) and is now a deranged boob fetishist like 95% of all males, change the age rating, apologize, then beat the developer who set a false age rating. Fear will keep us in line.


The copyright holder can submit a DMCA takedown notice, like anyplace else. YouTube doesn't approve all videos, they let you uplaod what you want, and wait for complaints. Seems to work okay.


Hahahahaha, have you SEEN the shit on the iPhone App Store lately? Okay, seriously… Ahahahahahaha. Snerk.

Mac desktop software doesn't have an approval process, most Mac software isn't signed (it can be, but it's not as meaningful). And yet Mac software is pretty fucking sweet. Mac software is so much better than anything on Linux or Windows there's no fair comparison.


Macs don't have viruses, and only have 2-3 trojans now. This is not because Macs are rare, but because they don't run a bunch of vulnerable 'Net-facing services like Windows. If the user is dumb enough to run a trojan, it can savage the user's account, but still can't turn the computer into a spam zombie like every Windows machine is. The iPhone doesn't have as much security as a desktop Mac, no firewall and it runs apps with too much permission. But it has no background apps, so no spyware or spam bots are possible.

Other phones and PDAs, like the Palm Treo and Blackberry, have had unrestricted apps for over a decade. They didn't have any significant problems.

It's safe enough that the "network security" argument doesn't fly.

Apple, please see reason. King Canute could not hold back the sea at a command, and neither can you.

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