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Developers: You Are What's Wrong With the iPhone AppStore (ynniv.com)
60 points by ynniv on Nov 19, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments

I've been writing mobile software for 6 years, and I find all the belly-aching terribly amusing. Despite all the complaints, inconsistencies, and contradictions, Apple treats their developers better than any other mobile marketplace. I'll say that again. Apple treats their phone developers better than any other mobile software marketplace. (Android market might be a little better, but no-one is using it)

Wanted to submit an app for Verizon on the Get-It-Now shop? You're looking at spending 10,000$ in testing fees. Fail testing? You pay again.

By all means, lets keep up with the griping. The more Apple is forced to bow to the teeming masses, the better the other marketplaces have to treat us to keep up.

The iPhone is heaven for mobile developers, hell for everyone else.

If you're coming from a web software background -- or even a desktop software background -- the App store will increase the length your development cycle by one or two orders of magnitude.

The iPhone brought new developers to the mobile field and they have higher expectations than people who have been working with carriers for the last five years.

In the long run, developers will go where the expected payout is the highest. For now that's the iPhone, but the App Store is a big weakness.

If you're coming from a web software background -- or even a desktop software background -- the App store will increase the length your development cycle by one or two orders of magnitude.

Only if you need to develop a native app. You can develop highly functional Web apps specifically for the iPhone that work through Safari. Hardly ideal, of course, in terms of not being in the catalog everyone's looking at.. but totally doable.

Apple even keeps a directory of them: http://www.apple.com/webapps/

There only seems to be a double standard because you're making an invalid comparison.

On most smartphones, while there's a high bar to pass to get into the official "app store" for that phone or service, nobody is stopping you from selling an app outside that store. As such, Apple's review process is not merely a review process for a store, but also serves as a review process for all applications that a user can install on the phone.

It's the difference between a lengthy review process for selling a game on Steam (reasonable) and a review process for selling a game that a user can install on Windows (not reasonable).

I'm unclear as to how my comparison is invalid. Verizon's Get-It-Now marketplace is a mobile application store as is Apple's iTunes shop. I'm comparing one market to others.

I'm not, by any means, saying that Apple's review process is reasonable, acceptable, or fair. I am, however, saying that, hands down, it's better than every other mobile application market out there.

While that is relevant for you and me, I'm guessing for the vast majority of phone users, this is meaningless. The average phone user does not download apps outside the app store. I would argue the same folks who do download outside the app store would just jailbreak their iPhone.

Either way, I'm all for a more open approval process.

Users cannot download apps outside of the app store without jailbreaking.

It's an awfully far-fetched assumption to think that users wouldn't download apps outside of the app store if that were an option. People download windows/mac apps all the time.

Except that users CAN. It's called ad hoc distribution. Do some research please.


Ad-hoc distribution requires that you:

1) Share your unique device identifier with the developer.

2) The developer registers that device ID with Apple. Only 100 devices per developer may be registered in one year.

3) Apple signs a signing certificate which includes that device ID.

4) The developer signs the application binary with their private key and includes the Apple-signed certificate with the binary.

This is absolutely not useful for anything other than beta testing.

Read the parent comment. I was replying to the specific statement that one cannot download apps onto the device other than through the App Store, not addressing whether it is useful or not as a channel to distribute apps.

As to your other points, sign up for the Enterprise program.


Read the parent comment. I was replying to the specific statement that one cannot download apps onto the device other than through the App Store, not addressing whether it is useful or not as a channel to distribute apps.

I can get out and push my car, but that doesn't make it a hybrid.

As to your other points, sign up for the Enterprise program.

The enterprise program does not allow for external distribution and is not useful (or even permitted) outside of large enterprise organizations.

"The Standard and Enterprise Programs allow you to share your application with _up to 100_ other iPhone or iPod touch users with Ad Hoc distribution. Share your application through email or by posting it to a web site or server." (emphasis added)

I'm sure you can work around this somehow, but this isn't really the same as allowing unlimited and free distribution.

I'm tired of this comparison. Smartphone applications have never been behind walled gardens or approval processes. The iPhone is a smartphone.

Yes, if you wanted to J2ME software for mobile phones you had a hell of a time. I'm sure you griped about that too and maybe somebody like Apple actually heard your griping and decided they could do it better.

>Android market might be a little better, but no-one is using it

10000 apps is no-one?

Both stores are full of garbage. Comparing 100k to 10k is meaningless when 99% of the apps in both stores are code abortions. Android store just means fewer raw pieces of shit to wade through, but the gold is harder to find as well.

Using the App Store/Android Market as a selling point for either platform demonstrates a disconnect from reality and little more.

I'm on the verge of buying an Android phone over an iPhone because I can dial out with Google Voice on Android. I don't know when that will be available on iPhone.

So I'd say the app market can make a difference for some people.

The Droid's best feature is it's ability to make and receive phone calls in San Francisco

While I agree that a lot of the griping is unwarranted and developers don't know how good they have it, you're wrong about them being the best. Danger (now Microsoft) had an amazing hiptop developer program that many people forget about.

Of course after their recent data-loss incident it's not that great of a developer platform, but up until then it was a better experience than the iPhone. Fewer eyeballs in the download catalog but also only a handful of developers, each of whom was always willing to help out another. Unlike the App Store with its 1000+ (10 000+?) developers out to make it rich quick.

Anyway the main problem it seems is a lot of desktop developers come to the mobile platform expecting the same process, this is wrong.

I think there are several things wrong with this blog post. First, attacking Paul's post as if it were whining. Secondly, failing to address the point that the long approval cycle keeps buggy software out there, reducing the overall quality of the user experience. Thirdly, it has the tone of "if you don't like it, leave"

I think time will tell how this discussion will come out. People have been discounting Android since it was announced, but you get a seriously good user experience from the start, and the idea of fast iteration, which is what really drives software today, is very much a reality.

I think the point about having to rewrite android apps for different devices has been discounted elsewhere.

And are you serious about If Apple is pissing off developers, I personally think this is great.?

> failing to address the point that the long approval cycle keeps buggy software out there, reducing the overall quality of the user experience.

Your app's user experience, not Apple's. If there were apps critical to the iPhone experience, this would be a problem. At this point, I don't think that anyone is going to switch phones because of the quality of 3rd party apps.

> Thirdly, it has the tone of "if you don't like it, leave"

Well... Apple is going to do whatever they want. You can yell into the wind, or your can do something constructive.

> And are you serious about If Apple is pissing off developers, I personally think this is great.?

Yes, I am. Kind of. We're all quietly building Apple's Empire of Mobile... stirring up the devs might cause them to create a viable alternative.

Quotes from the article:

> You pounded your fists because Apple didn't have a "real" SDK, so Apple created one.


> Then you pounded your fists because the approval process is too slow, so Apple hired a bunch of noobs.

Success! (sort of)

> Now you're pounding your fists because the newbies aren't consistent in their execution.

Still waiting.

If you don't ask for anything, you're not going to get it. Why does this author think keeping silent is a virtue? That is just stupid. The griping can't hurt the situation, it can only help it.

There are some diminishing returns to whining. Yes, we got a native SDK. Yes, we got them to hire more idiots. No, we haven't been able to get them to improve the current situation.

So its a bit like scaling a poorly written web app... you can throw money for a while, but you're only going to get so far. I contend that we have gone as far as whining will get us, now its time for something different.

This article misses the point. Sure, developers quitting the iPhone and all moving to Android would probably be the best move for the long-term health of the smart phone industry. However, just like the rest of the technocrat-hipster-elite, PG doesn't actually want to give up his cool Apple stuff. He admonishes Apple because he wants them to get their shit together instead of forcing us to switch to inferior hardware as a political statement.

As a G1 owner I definitely sympathize. I'm secretly relieved that AT&T sucks enough to make my Android purchase palatable.

I believe that you actually missed the point of the article. The point was, quit whining because no one cares about your app.

If that's the point then I guess I did because I thought it was a response to PG's article.

"Apple wants to be the best"

As an off-again on-again customer since the II, that's clearly never been the case. Assuming anyone can know what 'the best' is (apart from measurable technical performance). Every piece of Apple hardware I've owned/operated was measurably not the best. Including the $400 'super' floppy drive they were using to filter the air. If Jobs decides you don't need a serial port any more, it doesn't matter how many thousands you've got invested in serial gear.

Since the Mac advent, Apple is about proprietary everything. That's what they're 'best' at: they're control freaks. It's like joining the DAR. You had to join a club to program their computers.

If you don't like the Game, don't play. There are other options than being a dedicated follower of fashion.

I don't think what you describe is really accurate for Apple in recent years. For starters, their laptops are objectively the best laptops that are actually portable. Apple has really only been excessively proprietary in a few instances, most notably with the App Store where they are acting out of the fear that an unfiltered marketplace could hurt their platform. (In this respect, they are very much like game console manufacturers.) However, most of their other oddities, including Firewire, AAC, Objective-C, GCD, launchd, and miniDisplayPort are at least as open as their primary competitors. The rest of what you perceive as being too proprietary is probably a combination of Apple's willingness to be different and their refusal to compete in many low-end low-margin markets.

I haven't owned an Apple laptop. I've been using a Gateway (Vista) for a year that has had zero problems. You may be right, since I'm aware (as a musician) how many musicians prefer them.

I did get an iMac in 2005 which had a HD that went flaky in 6 months, and a display which developed (after about a year of use ...for thousands of users) a rash of colorful vertical lines which slowly took over a big chunk of the screen ... a problem which Apple resolutely avoided addressing.

The proprietary nature of Apple (like iPhone's battery) became self-evident to me as a result of two decades' experience. (Maybe you haven't done much hardware-level programming? Try to implement any MIDI before Doug got on board?) From a distance I don't see any reason to think things are different from when I was much closer. I'm staying away.

Is that some kind of SEO thing? Like writing "George Bush rules" and collecting lots of inbound links?

Some forthcoming posts:

- 13 Ways To Get The Jump On App Store Approval

- My 22 Best App Approval Tips Ever

- Developers Spill: The White Lies They Tell To Get Approved Every Time

- Get Your App Approved Faster: 11 Crazy Ways To Do It

- A Shocking Thing 63% Of iPhone Developers Do To Make More Money

- Your iPhone App's Approval Process: 24 Things Apple Forgot To Tell You

- Write An App Description That Gets Approved Every Time.. In Just 7 Minutes!

You know, I just realized that a large number of blog posts out there aren't much better than the covers of those women's magazines you see at the checkout line.

You'd be right.. that's exactly where I got the templates for my suggestions above :-) See http://www.copyblogger.com/cosmo-headlines/

- 7 Ways to Make a Living Off AdSense

Ouch, touchy subject. In case you missed it, my site has no advertisements.

> Most AppStore apps sell for a dollar, because thats about all they're worth. (BTW: please disprove this by creating something valuable.)

This is a chicken-and-egg problem. The reason I don't write huge, complex apps is because I'm not willing to sink time into them if I don't know they'll pass review. I'm willing to waste, maybe, a week's worth of work, tops.

to build something great is most of the times not possible because of API limitations. An alternative sms client can be something great if well coded. Opera for iphone can be great. A new home screen with events, and so forth. In a development environment where it is not even possible to access the webcam directly what you get is a lot of toy apps.

I agree that there are API deficiencies, but I think that we as developers think far too highly of ourselves. Apple's SMS application is very good. I'm sure that you could add features that you might want, but that doesn't mean that your SMS application will be better on the whole for a majority of iPhone users. The same goes for Opera: a couple of new features won't make it better than Safari.

If you feel that you can make an SMS app better than Apple's, I hear that the Android API lets you do that. If more people did this, and their apps were that good, the open platform would be popular.

> I am a long time Mac user, and I will tell you that nobody cares about your app, least of all Apple. I didn't buy the iPhone because of you, I bought it because of Apple.

The App Store is like C++: everybody uses a different 20%. Apart from games (which the author acknowledges as a whole separate category), users use different apps. Consider Omnifocus, Timely, LogMeIn. None of these will make anyone a millionaire, but you may pry them from my cold, dead hands. Everyone has a shortlist of apps they use on a daily basis, and they're all different. But that's in no way a sign of an unhealthy market.

If there was a "killer app" with mass-market appeal, Apple would either buy it or clone it. The App Store, by definition, is the long tail of the device. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that.

I doubt that every app in the AppStore has a user who would switch platforms if it were not available. Is there a compilation of apps that people tend to view as crucial? And certainly apps like Timely could be a web app (using HTML5 cache and local storage to operate offline).

This whole post was confused and basically incoherent.

Mods: thanks for changing the title... I made a submission specifically in reply to an existing submission, but used a non-contextual blog title for the non-HN visitors. Are the submission guidelines to pretend that HN doesn't exist? Do I have to pretend that everyone who reads my blog comes from HN to have a HN-aware submission title?

Thanks okay, I can always change my blog title. You can change it back now.

I agree with the basic premise of the article. Developers are the problem with the App Store. However I mean it a bit differently. How many developers have the gumption to quit the App Store till Apple fixes it??? Till a majority of developer's simply quit developing for the iPhone the app store is going to remain broken.

Be Strong = Adhere to Apple's prescriptions, limitations, rules, approval, and just shut up otherwise??

Hmm, not really my point. "Be Strong" meant find a way to succeed without Apple's table scraps. We started developing web apps because the OS (and hardware) vendors can't control them. I would really appreciate if Apple removed the AppStore process, but I don't expect to just be handed things because I want them. Looking at this from Apple's perspective, I don't see a compelling reason for them to concede this.

The author needs to learn some basic grammar before pointing a finger at others. The lack of coherent sentences distracted from his "points".

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