Frustrated developers and scrutiny of other apps: Are things falling apart at Apple's app store?

Frustrated developers and scrutiny of other apps: Are things falling apart at Apple's app store?

Summary: I'm probably just as tired as all of you over this matter of Apple and the Google Voice app for the iPhone. But I would like to share two related posts that I read this morning and chime in with some reaction to both.

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I'm probably just as tired as all of you over this matter of Apple and the Google Voice app for the iPhone. But I would like to share two related posts that I read this morning and chime in with some reaction to both.

The first, which appeared in the MacLife blog, recounted the story of an iPhone app developer team at technology consulting firm Riverturn that is plenty upset that their VoiceCentral Google Voice app was removed from iTunes on June 27 with no warning. The short - and only - answer they've received from Apple is that their app, which was previously approved, "duplicates features of the iPhone… and was causing confusion in the user community.” And now, it seems, the company that developed the app is on the hook for refunds for those who bought it.

Ouch. No wonder they're upset with Apple. Talk about bad business partners.

What's interesting here is that the backlash from the developer community is starting to mount against Apple - and that can be a dangerous thing, seeing how the real secret sauce behind the iPhone is the third-party apps. (There's no way the phone service on that device is the big reason for its success.) One of the biggest problems highlighted by the Riverturn developers is that there is no "us" at Apple for the developers to work with about resolving concerns for app development. Apple tells the FCC in response to inquiries from Washington that "we also let (developers) know they can contact the app review team or technical support, or they can write to us for further guidance"

Related coverage:

Hey Apple, the folks at Riverturn sure could use a name and number for the "us" that you referenced there. Oh, and they'd like a few other things, too. They are calling for Apple to create a non-binding pre-approval process - basically, an early thumbs up or thumbs down about the app idea before developers waste their time and money building it and then finding out that it doesn't meet Apple's criteria. They also want a complete overhaul of the approval process and inclusion of a formal appeals process.

Yeah, good luck with that.

As for the second item I read this morning, the New York Times had a story this morning with the headline, "A Teenager’s Dream: An iPhone App for Free Texting."

Just the headline alone tells me that the company approved an app that takes away from a core iPhone feature and that the app goes directly at the heart of one of the revenue streams for the mobile carriers - and not just AT&T. Even the opening paragraph of the story acknowledges that whopping cell phone bills because of teenager texting can be a thing of the past. The NYT writes:

A recently released app that offers free text messages on the iPhone is welcome news to parents of teenagers upset over the cellphone bills of their hypertexting children.

Seriously? That app gets approval - even though it's disrupting the iPhone experience and it's blatantly going after one of the core revenue streams for a partner. (If my kids had iPhones, I would buy this app and dump that unlimited messaging plan in a heartbeat.)

Actually, the app developer, called TextPlus, pays the text messaging bill to AT&T so wireless carrier apparently doesn't miss out on any revenue. That's a pretty shaky business model, seeing how the company pays more to AT&T than it receives in advertising revenue, according to the NYT.  But AT&T also misses out on those big money "gotcha" bills, too - the ones where teens text to their hearts delight until Mommy and Daddy get the bill and blow their gaskets.

Bottom line: I have nothing against the folks who created the TextPlus app, but I also think it's extremely unfair for Apple to approve an app like that and then drag their feet on the Google Voice app, which - I'll say it again - does not replace the AT&T phone service.

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

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23 comments
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  • textPlus

    Thanks for the textPlus mentions. Would love to talk to you a bit more. I think we have some info that would kind of clear up the "core functionality replacement" thinking ;)

    drew@gogii.net
    drdrew@...
  • Just like you can install anything you like on your PC, you SHOULD be able

    install anything you like on your mobile device. Apple
    and others will find themselves fighting a losing battle
    on this trying to control what gets installed.
    DonnieBoy
  • RE: Frustrated developers and scrutiny of other apps: Are things falling ap

    Honestly, I'm tired of the tech bloggers complaining about an
    app that
    everyone doesn't have access to unless you have an invite
    from Google.
    This reporting isn't journalism, it's a way of trying to cause a
    problem
    that doesn't exist. Sam if you're tired of this topic, just simply
    stop
    writing about it.
    Keonidas
  • Breaking news: Apple admits that iPhone is a toy

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/24/iphone_apps_not_for_business/

    [i]This makes it all the more surprising that Apple advised one customer that: "The iTunes Store sells only to customers as end-users for personal, noncommercial use."[/i]

    This is spelled out in their T&C:
    http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/uk/terms.html#SALES
    [i](ii) Your license of Products as authorized hereunder permits you to use the Products only for personal, non-commercial use, and not for redistribution, transfer, assignment or sublicensee, to the extent permitted by law.[/i]

    There you have it folks, yet another example of Apple telling you one thing (iPhone is ready for business) and then doing another (don't you dare use your iPhone for business).

    LOL!!! I just couldn't make this stuff up!!!! LOLOLOLOL!!!!

    So all you app developers out there, keep making those iFart applications. Those are legal. Anything that can be used for business purposes though should not be submitted for approval since no user can legally use your app.
    NonZealot
    • More specious conclusions from NonZealot

      Read the article again, this time more slowly (and try not to move your
      lips). It's pretty clear the problem is European taxation. Apple doesn't
      want to deal with VAT refunds for millions of transactions, so it's
      dodging the whole thing. It's called a "shield" and it's one of the reasons
      lawyers get paid hundreds of dollars, or probably in this case?pounds,
      per hour.

      I'll agree that European business users are getting screwed, but the
      problem is that it's by the European Parliament, not Apple.
      matthew_maurice
    • Use the relevant Terms and Conditions

      Why do you use the iTunes store conditions when talking about the
      iPhone App Store? Surely the "APP STORE TERMS AND CONDITIONS"
      would be the correct choice:

      http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/uk/terms.html#APPS

      It is clear that one on of two license options exist: Apple's or a third
      party. Only IF these licenses have conditions restricting use would such
      restrictions apply.
      Richard Flude
      • Interesting.

        [i]Why do you use the iTunes store conditions when talking about the
        iPhone App Store? Surely the "APP STORE TERMS AND CONDITIONS"
        would be the correct choice:

        http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/uk/terms.html#APPS[/i]

        But doesn't that link point to iTunes? And doesn't it say this:

        [b][i]1. DEFINITION OF THE APP STORE SERVICE. iTunes is the provider of the App Store (the "Service") that permits you to license software products, such as games and applications, under certain terms and conditions as set forth in this Agreement. iTunes is not the provider of the iTunes application or of the iPod or iPhone.[/i][/b]

        Seems Apple feels the iTunes store is the provider of the APP store. Technically making it one in the same. Just saying.
        ShadowGIATL
  • You know what's unfair for devs? The refund policy

    Apple gotta keep its 30% cut while the developer who sold in the app store need to refund 100% the list price to the customer.

    It's wrong in so many levels and It's just a matter of time a class action lawsuit hits Apple.
    Samic
    • And in the real world...

      iPhone developers are refunding the amount Apple credited them for the
      sale.

      Why all the FUD?
      Richard Flude
      • source?

        the iPhone developers seem to disagree with you.

        The customer gets 100% of their money back, there's been no word of Apple offering back the 30% they took.

        rtk
        • Yes

          I'm an ADC member and know people who sell via the App store.

          These comments are typical:

          "Greg - March 25th, 2009 at 6:59 pm PDT
          From the refunds that we have seen in our financial reports it?s
          always
          the 70% value originally given. Apple hasn?t been charging back the
          full cost of the application just the % they originally gave us."

          and

          "Shawn Arney - March 26th, 2009 at 7:05 pm PDT
          Same here. The refunds coming across have so far been the 70%
          charge back"

          http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/03/25/apples-iphone-app-
          refund-policies-could-bankrupt-developers/

          A complete non-issue, more untruths.
          Richard Flude
          • Well, if Richard, Greg and Shawn say so

            Why should we even read Apple's policy on the issue.

            [i]In the event that Apple refunds any such price to an end-user, You shall reimburse, or grant Apple a credit for, an amount equal to the price for that Licensed Application. Apple will have the right to retain its commission on the sale of that Licensed Application, notwithstanding the refund of the price to the end.[/i]

            I'll tend to believe Apple over the three individuals in the subject line.

            rtk
  • I'm sure they'll all start writing Pre and Android apps now.

    I'm sure apps on those platforms will be very lucrative, and
    by taking their copious coding talents away from the iPhone
    platform they'll really be punishing Apple!

    Yeah, that'll show 'em.
    matthew_maurice
    • which would you write for?

      Would you rather compete with 65,000 apps or with 6,000? With a store that will eventually spread over multiple phones with multiple carriers, or a single phone and carrier?

      Of course Apple has the market share and the most popular store. But quite a few iPhone developers already have ported their apps over to Android (I know, I've downloaded them on my Android phone). It's not that far away from only writing certain apps just for Android, knowing that Apple might reject something they write.

      Looking to the future, when people want to upgrade their phones, will they choose the single iPhone hardware, or one of the many Android choices? Will they switch to AT&T just for the iPhone anymore, when they can have touchscreens, physical keyboards, etc in multiple form factors?

      I don't think it's too hard to imagine moving to Android.

      You're right, though, Apple won't care much until it hits them in the wallet, which may not be for a long time, if ever.
      coffeeshark
    • That's exactly the kind of arrogance

      that caused Apple to lose the PC wars to MS and PC-compatibles in the 1980's. Making that mistake once is bad enough, making it twice is inexcusable.
      Michael Kelly
  • I have a question...

    If I'm tired of hearing about the iPhone, is there an app for that? ]:)

    I'm kidding. Put DOWN the acetylene torches.
    mgp3
    • There was..

      but is got denied. Apple said it appeared to duplicate core iPhone functionality and might confuse users that are used to hearing about the iPhone.
      ShadowGIATL
  • I understand Apple's point of view...

    that limiting some apps will provide a better user experience. But there comes a point in which you are self serving, and not serving the greater good. I feel Apple has crossed this line, and they would be much better off admitting it and attempting to correct it.

    They need to rethink the approval process, and offer better communication with 3rd party developers. Something Apple is not known for... ever. If they want to play in a global market as big as the phone industry, they need to learn the rules. This is one industry that does not play well with vendor lockin, after years of just that. People have tasted freedom, and now they want it all the time. Imagine that.
    ShadowGIATL
  • Is Sam Diaz out of control??

    "Frustrated developers and scrutiny of other apps: Are things falling
    apart at Apple's app store?"

    "Is the Apple rumor mill getting out of control?"

    "The Google Voice app scandal: is Apple losing control over the iPhone?"

    Answer: Ths guy is only out of ideas
    financegozu
  • Is ZDnet dying?

    *NM*
    dogbreath1