Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Wild West days of the Apple App Store return; developers take advantage of increasingly lax app reviews

Not every post has to be a serious one, does it? I mean, occasionally one runs across an app edition that has you scratching your head and wondering, what were they thinking?

The problem, though, is that many times many readers don't get the joke. I've written many a post that talked about replica apps produced by some of the less than credible vendors out there, pretty much laughing at the efforts and wondering what the publisher was thinking when they approved their app. But TNM readers usually never saw those posts, usually I delete them before they hit the sight, worrying that some won't get the message, or because I feel I might be repeating myself.
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A lot has changed in the almost three years since Steve Jobs stood on a stage in San Francisco and introduced the iPad. In the early days of the App Store there were controversies galore over the apparent censorship of the app review teams at Apple.

Probably the biggest one centered on the satirical app created by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Mark Fiore. Apple rejected that app because it made fun of political figures – which, of course, is exactly what satire is about. In rejecting his app the Apple team wrote:
Thank you for submitting NewsToons to the App Store. We’ve reviewed NewsToons and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement...
Eventually Apple, having gotten a black eye for its own conduct, asked Fiore to resubmit his app, but that didn't stop media observers from beginning the cry of "walled garden" and other now clich├ęd criticism (much of which, I might add) we no longer hear.

This led to Apple's memorable revised developer guidelines published on the developer site in September of 2010:
We’re thrilled that you want to invest your talents and time to develop applications for iOS. It has been a rewarding experience – both professionally and financially – for tens of thousands of developers and we want to help you join this successful group. This is the first time we have published our App Store Review Guidelines. We hope they will help you steer clear of issues as you develop your app, so that it speeds through the approval process when you submit it...
  • We have lots of kids downloading lots of apps, and parental controls don’t work unless the parents set them up (many don’t). So know that we’re keeping an eye out for the kids.
  • We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.
  • If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour...
Ah, the good old days. You can see by the app above that those days are long gone. Today the App Store, and the Newsstand, in particular, accepts just about any ol' app.

The above app is from Sergey Rudnev who has, in quick succession, launched three magazine apps into the Newsstand. None of the apps have any screenshots of the actual magazine pages, merely covers. Readers don't have clue what to expect.

The first was called Magazine "Baby and mother', I can find no evidence of a print equivalent or a supporting website. The next was Magazine "Shut up' which does have a website, though no contact information or other clues to its origin.

Finally today we get Magazine 'Pick up'. The app description has the great line "The magazine will have a wonderful time." Now that would be a great trick.

I don't know about you, but I doubt that if Steve Jobs were alive today that these apps would find their way into the Newsstand. No, I'm not one of those that looks for any sign that Apple is going down hill after the death of Jobs, but clearly the app review standards are not what they used to be.

I am not a prude, so I could care less if the App Store ended up a home for porn or other material. But I do think Apple has a vested interest in promoting developers that use native app development to launch digital magazines that contain interactivity and show off the platform. If the review team wants to let in 'Pick up' or other apps, so be it. But in the meantime the digital magazines and native apps from good developers are being crowded out. It is nearly impossible to find any new or original apps, and the App Store changes just instituted actually make it much, much hard to find them, too.

Apple needs to hire, as I've said many times in the past, industry liaisons who understand both what Apple is trying to accomplish and what their partners need and want. Not understand the world outside Apple is why the company struggles in areas such as iAds. It is a problem that can be easily solved if Apple makes the effort.

1 Comment:

Tablazines said...

On a totally non-related note.. I see that "Pick Up" mag app was done with PadCMS....