Apple's app approval revolt: Will it matter? Maybe

Apple's app approval revolt: Will it matter? Maybe

Summary: App developers begin to revolt against Apple's app approval process, clearing the way for competitors like Android to boost their own app catalogs and prove to consumers that there is an option to the mighty iPhone.

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There's a revolt of sorts that's starting to put a dark cloud over Apple's App Store approval process. And while Apple - known for its my-way-or-the-highway sort of attitude - is unlikely to hear the moans of frustration coming from the developer community, there may be a bigger storm brewing behind the scenes.

A while back I noted that Apple, by signing a multi-year exclusive deal with AT&T for the iPhone, did more than just alienate the non-AT&T customers from using the device. It actually created a demand for an iPhone-like experience on other devices and gave companies like Google a reason - and the time - to develop something like Android, its own mobile OS.

Fast forward to today and Android is grabbing plenty of headlines about future growth. Motorola is placing its bets on Android with a lineup of products in the works, including the newly released Droid for Verizon Wireless. There are multiple carriers now carrying Android devices and multiple device manufacturers who are getting into the Android game, as well.

Also see: Verizon-Google changes mobile landscape; Customers have real options again

And, of course, the app developers are also starting to build that catalog of mobile apps for Android - and it's growing fast.

In recent weeks, Apple has been taking a lashing over its don't-call-us-we'll-call-you app approval process, which has left developers in limbo, unsure of whether the app is on track for approval or if there's an issue that needs to be addressed before it can go into the app store. This morning, the Read Write Web blog posted an entry about an online petition by developers who are tired of the months-long process to get an approval - or at least some feedback - from Apple. (Techmeme)

Separately, the Ars Technica blog put up an interesting post this week about how respected app developers are growing tired of Apple's app approval process and are starting to shun the platform altogether. From that blog post:

Apple's control over the App Store—which seems arbitrary at times—still frustrates developers. That much isn't a surprise, but some developers have become frustrated to the point that they have decided to simply halt iPhone development altogether. Facebook's Joe Hewitt, Second Gear's Justin Williams, and long-time Mac software developer Rogue Amoeba have all recently decided that enough is enough, and the loss of these developers and others could spell a troubling future for the App Store. True, it has over 100,000 applications, but how many of them are created with the kind of care and passion we take for granted in the Mac software world?

Hewitt, in his own blog post, called for an elimination of Apple's app approval process. Hewitt - who was behind one of the best-designed apps on the iPhone, the Facebook app - points out what he believes to be the core of the problem: lawyers. From his post:

Apple does not have the means to perform thorough quality assurance on any app. This is up to the developer. We have our own product managers and quality assurance testers, and we are liable to our users and the courts if we do anything evil or stupid. Apple may catch a few shallow bugs in the review process, but let's face it, the real things they are looking for are not bugs, but violations of the terms of service. This is all about lawyers, not quality, and it shows that the model of Apple's justice system is guilty until proven innocent. They don't trust us, and I resent that, because the vast majority of us are trustworthy.

With all of that said, the bigger storm I referred to earlier is the competition that's growing in the app game,  just like it did in the OS game before it. While Apple takes beatings over 1) its exclusivity with AT&T, 2) the poor service by AT&T, 3) and now this app approval process, competitors like Google's Android and RIM's Blackberry will keep working on enhancing their service, their platforms and their app catalogs.

At some point, the iPhone may find itself in Verizon stores - and while that will be welcome news to people like myself, who still have mad iPhone envy - it also may be too late. Over the weekend, I picked up a Droid - and while I'm still putting it through some tests, I am really liking it.

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of Apple products. But, by the time Apple unleashes the iPhone from AT&T and gets its act together over the app approval process, I may be so happy with Android - and its apps - that I won't be willing to trade it in for an iPhone.

That would make me another potential Apple customer who was handed over to the competition.

Related coverage:

Can Droid mask iPhone envy? Or will Verizon iPhone rumors keep users guessing?

AT&T: The iPhone's Anchor

Topics: iPhone, Android, Apple, Google, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones, Software Development, AT&T

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39 comments
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  • Once somebody matches the ease of the App store,

    Create a desktop application which makes it brain-dead simple to buy, install, arrange, and sync software and multimedia content with the Droid and it will take off like crazy. That's about the only thing the iPhone has over the Droid at this point. I would love to see a Verizon Droid paired with a desktop application BETTER than iTunes that is transparently linked to Amazon's music store and Google's application store. If you build it, they will come.
    BillDem
    • MAybe Google should start working . . .

      with the Songbird project. If they can get video up and running in it, this would be your solution. Songbird pretty much works like iTunes now.

      JLHenry
      • Close, but not quite...

        Songbird doesn't sync address book, email, calendar, photos, and other information to a device.
        BillDem
    • Android already has an Amazon MP3 app on it...

      Why would u want a Desktop application ????

      Backing up your music collection maybe.
      mrlinux
      • iPhone's success with non-techies is proof.

        "Why would u want a desktop application????"

        Seriously? You can't grasp why most people would want a good desktop application to go with their Android phones?

        Well, how about this? Because it is MUCH easier to browse 100,000+ applications (what the iPhone already has) on my dual 30 inch monitors than to browse them by scrolling FOREVER on a 4 inch screen. I can view screen shots and read reviews of each application. In iTunes, I get FAR more information than just an ICON and a single line description like Android. Put another way, there is NO application I would EVER purchase based on a single line description and its icon. Before I spend cash, I want information. iTunes give you this.

        Also, without a desktop application, I won't be able to EASILY move email, addresses, calendars, photos, video, music, ebooks, and myriad other personal information onto the device. More importantly, all of the elderly and very young I know who already bought and use iPhones daily wouldn't be able. There is a REASON those people bought iPhones and not Android phones. If you don't make it really easy to put their stuff on it, they will NEVER buy an Android phone over an iPhone. iTunes is what makes the iPhone more appealing to most people than Android. Hell, we even put up with AT&T.

        The attitude that simple, well-thought-out desktop interfaces aren't necessary is exactly the attitude which has held back great free OSes for the past couple of decades. I don't want the same thing to happen to Android. It has the potential to become huge, but ONLY if a top-notch desktop application is created for it. Otherwise it will end up as a tech-hobbyist-only OS and languish at the bottom of the installed base list forever. I'd rather see Android succeed instead of ceding the market to Apple and remaining a niche hobbyist product forever.
        BillDem
        • You're right on the money, Sir!

          I think so, at least.
          No matter how much I like Apple's products, a smartphone world totally dominated by Apple wouldn't be much better than a desktop pc world totally dominated by MS.

          So I agree of course, even though I believe there's more in the iPhone which motivates consumers to become customers, like its good looks and ease of use.
          A big screen do help, in spite of all the moaning over the virtual keyboard. The guarantee that it will work seamlessly with a Mac should also be a big selling point.
          Mikael_z
        • There are literally millions of people with phones..

          and no computers (Not in the US). So making it a requirement to have a computer in order to use/update the phone is not good. Now to have an optional Desktop application is OK. But Apple requires you upgrade the phone via iTunes.

          As for Syncing and Calendars/Contacts, I use the Google online applications and still no need for a computer.

          As for all the iPhone purchases over Android, well lets see iPhone has been out 2yrs longer than Android and while I like Tmobile better, TMobile does not have the greatest coverage compared to Verizon/Sprint/AT&T so I would say now that Android is available on Verizon you will see it become very popular. I already see as many DROID's as iPhones @ work.
          mrlinux
          • Making sure that

            Google has all your personal information on their servers. Good luck when they get hacked.
            jorjitop
  • Apple play a dangerous game

    a massive move to android could tip the balance against
    apple ....

    apple may end up on teh wrong side off thing ....

    the enemy of my enemy is my best friend .
    Quebec-french
  • Broader availability

    I suspect Apple has favored exclusivity with mobile operators, because of attractive subsidies. However, Apple really should consider broad availability with MANY operators. Short term, they may get less attractive subsidies, but long term, they get customers for apps, music, videos...even Mac computers.

    The iPhone is a great smartphone, but the competition is closing the gap (e.g. Android). Why not get as many users as possible into the Apple ecosystem, before many potential customers discover comparable alternatives?
    linuser
    • The biggest problem I see . . .

      with ANY iPhone coming to Verizon, is the GSM/CDMA problem. They'd have to redesign the iPhone from the inside out in order to put the CDMA technology in there without the thing gaining weight . . .
      JLHenry
    • Not likely to happen

      Broad availability is not really in the Apple business model. To do that they would have to adopt/become more like the big kid on the block - the pc.

      I realize this is "smartphones" but the overall business model is not built with smartphones in mind.

      The writing on the wall is starting to read like the Mac to PC world model. I can see the iPhone becoming another innovative footnote in cell history - like the Motorola Razr....

      rhonin
  • As a developer, I won't touch the iPhone

    but have a couple of irons in the fire with Android 2.0. That isn't because i don't like the iPhone or Apple, its because of the games they have always played with developers and continue to play. Bottom line, if you develop for the Apple platforms, you wiil get screwed at some point, its just a matter of when.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • And developers don't get screwed by MS?

      Word Perfect, Lotus 123, Quatro Pro, Netscape, Lotus Notes, Novell Netware, Real Player, Endora, the list goes on and on. How many companies products got hosed or marginalized once MS stuck their crap in the OS?

      Looks like they treat those who develop for Windows real nice, as long as MS doesn't want their market.

      GoPower
      • Obsess much?

        He didn't mention MS, he mentioned Android. You
        iTards are all the same.
        NonZealot
        • Obsess Yourself Much?

          Weren't you the guy saying that Windows Mobile was a strong competitor
          (LOL)?

          Seems like you're the one obsessed, um, MicroTard?
          RealNonZealot
      • Gee, we were talking abotu Apple and Android. Are you that lost?

        Obviously you are.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
    • They don't want you.

      Sorry, the truth hurts.
      itguy08
      • That is the real issue

        Apple does not care for outside opinions, it is their way or the highway. Resemblence to their demigod ruller Jobsy.
        No they are repeating the past here, just as before, Jobsy will be removed, Apple will decline into mediocrity.
        CrashPad
        • Actually, it's call quality control.

          Some morons just can't seem to add 2 and 2 and
          get 4.... You can't have quality control
          without the control.

          Apple isn't going to let some moron developer's
          app do bad things to the iPhone or iTouch if
          they can help it.

          It's not that they don't care for outside
          opinions, it's that they don't care for second
          rate work. They have already proven to be
          extremely relaxed on the content of what they
          allow through, even if its in bad taste for
          most. But bad taste is not what they are
          concerned with, stability, quality, and legally
          kosher is.
          i8thecat