True confessions of a former iPhone developer

Summary:As of last Wednesday, I am officially no longer an iPhone developer -- which frees me up to tell you about my sordid experiences as an iPhone developer.

The bad

Right after Apple accepted the products into the App Store, it got a lot less fun.

I was hoping for a simple, enjoyable experiment. Coding can be quite fulfilling, and building a few simple apps -- while not particularly challenging -- could have made for a pleasant experience. But no.

At the time, Apple allowed anyone to comment in the App Store about an app -- even if the person posting the comments hadn't purchased or downloaded the app. This was early in the App Store's life. There were less than 15,000 apps total.

Even so, some fanboys (and possibly other developers) decided that my simple, pinpoint applications were horrible affronts to iPhone users everywhere. They started down-voting the apps and leaving highly abusive comments.

What started as fun quickly turned ugly. My wife (who wrote all the ad copy) and I quickly lost a taste for the game.

Apple eventually only permitted users who'd bought the apps to comment on the apps. But even though they added this restriction, Apple didn't initially reset the review ratings or remove the nastiness. It took quite some time for those abusive comments to fall off the system.

I knew that customers were happy. First, most of my apps would eventually wind up with 4+-star reviews. We got emails like the one that requested DaysTo Retirement. And there were a lot of pleasant comments posted -- once you had to buy the app to comment.

The ugly

And then the scammers got into the game.

You need to understand that my apps were silly. They weren't particularly important and -- as I'll show on the next page -- they're not the biggest moneymakers in the world. Even so, there were people out there willing to clone them.

And I'm not talking about just the concept. After all, a countdown is a countdown is a countdown. Sure, mine were the first on the App Store with a cute picture on the display, but my apps were not exactly the pinnacle of innovation.

But then, after enduring Apple's vaunted evaluation process, after seeing how the company claimed it would turn down anything that wasn't suitable for Apple customers' delicate little hands or even more delicate sensibilities, Apple let a total ripoff of at least one of my apps sit in the App Store.

This developer didn't just copy the concept. These bastards copied our product copy. Word for word, the description my wife wrote with great care, they just stole. Here's what we wrote. Note the date:


I'm not pissed because my silly little product was ripped off. I'm pissed because this scammer hurt my wife's feelings. She was really upset the day we found this thing. Here's what the scammer wrote. The only difference was the creep couldn't be bothered to insert line breaks.


So I contacted Apple and asked for the infringing app to be removed -- or at least require the description to be changed. I contacted Apple's legal group. I contacted Developer Support. Remember those eight support incidents I was supposedly provided as part of my $396 dollars worth of developer program fees?

No answer. Not from developer support. Not from Apple legal. Just dead silence.

So much for Apple's holier-than-thou approach to app management. That counterfeit app is still on the app store to this day. In fact, there's an entire array of Days To Christmas clone apps on the app store.


Frankly, Apple may claim it has more than 500,000 apps on the App Store, but the vast majority are garbage -- counterfeits, clones, and other trash Apple doesn't seem to be willing to lift a finger to clean up.

In fact, here's my estimate. Given the 16 or so clones of my one DaysTo Christmas app, I'd guess that for every "real" app, there are something like 10-20 bad clones. Apple's 500,000 apps claim? My guess is there are probably less than 30,000 apps of anything resembling quality.

Is this the post-PC world you folks really want?

Go on to the next page. That's the money page.

Topics: Apple, Smartphones, SMBs, Developer


In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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