Amber Alert App Languishes in Approval Limbo -- Dev Writes Open Letter to Steve Jobs

Longtime reader and tipster The Reptile wrote in to tell us about Fortune's coverage of the iPhone Amber Alert app and its problem getting into the App Store:

Now Jonathan Zdziarski, one of the original iPhone hackers and the author of several O’Reilly books, has hit on something that might work. It’s an open letter to Steve Jobs pleading with Apple’s CEO to speed up approval of the Amber Alert iPhone app that’s been sitting in the queue since February 14. The application uses GPS location information to funnel sightings of missing children to the nearest law enforcement agency as quickly as possible.

Has Apple dropped the ball? There doesn't seem to be a duplicates functionality, or official Amber Alert app that could explain the problems this time (see PodCaster and StarPlayr), does there? Is Apple that understaffed and ill-prepared in the face of 25,000 apps, or are the $99 novelty apps and iPod touch-highlighted games making so much money, no one really cares about the rest?

Full text of the letter after the break...

To: Steve Jobs’ Executive Team
From: Jonathan Zdziarski
Subject: AMBER Alert Application


The need to send this email represents everything that is wrong with your App Store review process. I’ve been working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to build an App Store application that revolutionizes how missing children are reported to law enforcement. By using the iPhone’s GPS and some geo-analytics, we’re able to build automated search radii and quickly relay sightings to law enforcement agencies. With an audience of millions of iPhone users, the missing kids that are out there stand to gain a LOT more exposure.

Yet nearly a month has passed since my February 14th submission, and the application continues to sit “In Review”. NCMEC has adapted their infrastructure to handle these submissions and has a call center trained to respond to them, as well as their CIO, regional directors, and many others ready to devote time to making this application successful - yet this entire team continues to wait on Apple to approve this application.

I won’t get into the politics of the App Store review process, or my beliefs about how this has hurt your relationship with independent developers. Instead, I’m simply asking that you pick up the phone and help push this application through. If you had to sit and look at these kids, as I have in the time I did developing and testing this application, you’d realize just how urgent it is to have an application like this be able to get information out (and sightings back in). As a developer and a human being, I’m anxious to see this application released. If I were the parent of one of these missing children, I would be unable to withstand the unreasonable delays Apple has taken in approving this application. The reprobate and fearful world these children are surviving in may very well be prolonged because of Apple’s lack of interest in independent developers like me.

Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss this. Otherwise, I hope you’ll do the right thing and light a fire under someone’s seat in the App Store. If there is any application that should be getting reviewed today, this is it.

Jonathan Zdziarski

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Amber Alert App Languishes in Approval Limbo -- Dev Writes Open Letter to Steve Jobs


Start The Buzz
I put my iphone on the counter
Between the speakers, dead center
Will the buzz occur, I wonder?
For Sure For sure, quote the buzzer
And then to my astonishment
I moved the iphone! And off it went
But will they buzz again? It shan’t?
Try again. And off it went
Oh no Oh no I say
It can not buzz always this way
For it is Apple, They’ll save the day
But it is Apple. I can not sway
And AT&T deny deny
The signal designed to invisibly
Move through and through … thy
Head … oh my, oh my.
Bob Johnson

Dear Jonathan,
Thanks for your message, unfortunately I am out of the office until the launch of the iPhone 3.0 in June. I'll get back to you as soon as I can!

Not defending Apple here, but he has been waiting just 15 business days? That's a pretty standard wait time and doesn't really sound like the "approval limbo" certain apps are facing. I think he should wait maybe just a few days longer before penning open letters lambasting Apple. :-)

I applaud this man...this app could really help save children's lives
APPLE needs to approve this app ASAP.

I've done 5 app review submissions in the past month I've been seeing app review times of around 4-5 business days. It definitely seems a bit out of the ordinary. I would suggest doing a developer rejection and try submitting again...

I disagree about a resubmission. Its time the devs stopped letting Apple whimsy control access to this market.
Its time to drag them the the knot hole of public opinion and this is a perfect opportunity.
The only problem is he wrote to the wrong person. Steve is far too sick to help. He should have written to Obama. Even Apple can't stand up to God Almighty.

If you go to the page for this app:
You find this odd little entry:
"NOTE: Because this application now uses a law-enforcement only feed authorized for use for this project, we can no longer provide developers the source code. I'm hopeful that Apple will take this as a cue to implement push notifications or background tasks in upcoming firmware releases. ""
So Apple's hands may be tied here, and they may also object to the sniping at Apple in the write up.

@AJ: It would seem to me that your app would have reduced a lot of traffic on the iTunes store, as users wouldn't have to surf the store looking for price reductions. That would kill impulse buying.
Apple might be able to make a (misguided) business case against your app.

What's wrong with so many of you people!? Have you no heart!? "15 days"? Do you know how much these children could be going through in "15 days" !!?
Apple, approve this App quickly unless you truly are computer minded!
Foolish you people...