If you saw my previous post on Apple suing HTC over patent infringement, then you know that the iPhone maker is not my favorite company at this moment. It’s tough to separate feelings about a device that has brought so much organization and happiness to my life and set it apart from the disappointment I feel today in the company behind it.
In an attempt to move on and catch up on iPhone-related happenings, I noticed some befuddling App Store news that has only exacerbated my torn feelings. In general, I'm pretty bothered by the way Apple treats the iPhone app dev community. But I’m not empathizing out of the goodness of my heart. In fact, I’m actually being selfish, because when app developers get treated badly — whether that's making them jump through hoops to satisfy some opaque and baffling approval process, or just giving them a flat-out rejection with a silly excuse — it winds up shortchanging the end users. It’s equivalent to blocking the talent and creativity necessary to truly optimize everything this handset could be. (When I chat with non phone geek friends with iPhones, they are usually shocked to find out how much their handsets could actually do, but aren’t permitted to. Yes, I'm talking about jailbreaking.)
So here’s what had me go on this rant: In the past, the App Store has let in such winners as the Mein Kampf ebook, a baby shaking app and a handful of skin apps (usually by big name publishers like Playboy, while the smaller devs get the boot for “sexually explicit” material. Oh puhlease…). So although some of these eventually got yanked, these crazy apps were all let in at one point. Meanwhile, an innocuous app called DuckPhone doesn't even make it through the door?
The official reason for the rejection is “minimal user functionality,” which is kind of unbelievable, given the scores of fart apps that are still in the store. Apparently these are just fine — but a simple little program that lets the handset quack like a duck? No, no, no, this is inappropriate and must be blocked. (Wha-?)
My 7-year-old niece loves ducks. Her mother would’ve gladly downloaded this to her own iPhone 3G, just to amuse the child. I suppose Apple would have her grab the Imbecile Test or Lie Detector app instead. (Both of these clearly productive and worthwhile apps are currently available via iTunes.)
Atlantia Software’s Nick Bonatsakis, the developer of DuckPhone, is understandably ticked off. He's not pretending that this bit of software is anything revolutionary or essential for iPhone users, but I found his general comments regarding App Store rejections pretty spot on: “As time goes on, this platform is becoming more of a burden on developers, this will in turn lead to talented people moving on to more open platforms. In the end, the customer loses, and I sincerely hope Apple will realize this.” *Sigh* I couldn’t agree more, Nick.
Addendum: By the way, when it comes to Apple’s “rampage” against skin apps (at least those created by smaller, third-party developers), it seems they missed a spot.
IntoMobile reports that when the company yanked thousands of racy applications from the store, it overlooked a booby app called Tubes! (Apparently it was missed because it wasn’t sold in the U.S.) So what happens when you provide some saucy entertainment, and the store takes out most of your competitors? You guessed it — a big boost in sales to the tune of $10,000 in a week before it, too, was pulled. Before the App Store “Inquisition,” Tubes! was netting $30 a day. Once the competition was mostly gone, sales spiked up $1,600 a day.
I wonder if the heads at Playboy and Sports Illustrated are rubbing their hands together, imagining their earnings now that most of the competition has been eradicated.