App Store Re-Ordered, Developers Still Daunted

Jobs Speaks About App Store

A few posts back we got into a few App Store early growing pains/gripes, including that some less-scrupulous -- or more marketing-savvy, depending on your point of view -- developers were prepending spaces and symbols to their App names in order to get them to sort higher in the alphabetical listings. Well according to MacUser (via Ars), seems like Apple called shenanigans on that one and has put an end to the practice.

Visiting the App Store now, I see that Jirbo’s titles, as well as quite a few others, still have a space in front of them, but are simply alphabetized by the following letter.

Nicely done. Would that all App Store problems were so easily solved...

We likewise mentioned that one of the big problems with the App Store, given its locked-down distribution method and gagging NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) was that it effectively prevented developers from doing proper betas, collecting crash or other bug data, and testing fixes. That is if, unlike Iliumsoft, you can even get your App into the Store!:

Wow. If you think waiting for eWallet is painful out there, try being in here. We were really fired up for the big launch and now we’re just pulling our hair out wondering what is happening (and if you’ve seen pictures of me, additional hair removal is a serious problem in my case.) We were told that the app would appear by the 11th, talked to “thrice-removed from the actual AppStore” support personnel, emailed every person we can think of, and stared endlessly at the status screen willing it to change. Still, nothing.

Twitteriffic's Craig Hockenberry (unsurprisingly via Twitter) posts that the length of time it takes Apple to push out updated Apps can lead to buggy versions still being downloaded even after they're fixed:

A few minutes ago, the first line of the Fit description was "* THIS VERSION OF FIT HAS SHIPPED WITH A CRASHING BUG *" The next line was: "We have uploaded a fix in version 1.01, but Apple has not deployed the update to the App Store at this time."

What's more, the Review feature in iTunes for the App Store has become a vehicle for more than just reviews, with some apps getting literally flamed for dozens of posts (e.g. BoxOffice getting blasted in post after post by irate Canadians for only providing US Zipcode support, nothing international). Others just get nonsense. Again, via Hockenberry:

Another fine review: "Make sure you have this app when you're digging your bomb shelter or spying on your neighbors' subversive activities." This is a real shame: it could be a wonderful way to collect ideas and feedback. Instead, it's just frustrating. One can only hope that someone at Apple eventually figures out that software is not music. I've never had an MP3 crash or lack features. Flagging the reviews as inappropriate seems to have no effect.

Some developers have gone so far as to suggest a mass boycott from App Store (reportedly they can withdraw and terminate the distribution agreement at any time) as a way to get Apple's attention. (Because, of course, Steve Jobs has always been easily swayed, right?)

Especially if, according to Tech Crunch, for-pay apps are increasing in popularity on the App Store. We hands out our money, we wants our awesome user experience.

Hopefully Apple will respond quickly and improve the system for both users and developers alike. Proper beta and QA, never mind a system for demos, would go a long way towards making better Apps all around.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 8 comments. Add yours.

iphonemilk says:

I think everyone , including the Devs of said Apps just need to take a CHILL PILL for a minute.
We are talking about the largest cel phone roll out ever. EVER period. In my opinion Apple has done a fine job, GIVEN that fact.
Just chill out for a freaking moment, and expect to see patches and updates fixing everything soon enough.
They are human beings for christ sake and not machines. Everything that the iPhone is all about is still 5-10 years ahead of everyone in terms of technology. I'm happy i have it, and the Crashes of Apps don't bother me. Why? because i know it will be fixed soon.

Tom says:

I think some of the developers need to chill a moment. This is App Store 1.0...
I am not saying they have no grounds to be upset, but it is completely new. Give them some time to work out the kinks and fine tune the things that couldn't be fine tuned in beta.

PC says:

People need to relax. This is still better than any Palm application site or Blackberry app site. This is one place to get all your apps, and properly for the IPhone. Things will work out within a year or so, but in the meantime, enjoy the ride, with a few potholes, the IPhone has a great suspension. :)

Tom says:

I don't even think it will take a year. I figure the App Store will be a far smoother machine in 3-4 months.

Marc says:

I'm the guy from Ilium Software quoted in the article above. Please don't assume that developers are just complaining. In fact in my blog post that Rene quoted, I stated:
"I’m not going to complain about Apple yet. I’m sure they are swamped. "
We're very aware of the monumental task Apple is taking on. The reality though is that we (and other companies I'm sure) have thrown 6 months of full time development at these applications (ie: paid people to work on only this for 6 months). Add in website design, demo videos, marketing, test devices, and the other staff required to make all this happen, and you start talking about a BIG chunk of change for companies like us.
Now we're more than willing to accept the risk because we love the iPhone. The challenge though is that right now we're flying blind. With absolutely no feedback, contact, and no insight from Apple into what is happening we don't know when (or if) we're going to get into the store. In addition, competing applications are already in the store giving them a distinct advantage in the market.
So developers aren't just being critcal of Apple. There is a lot riding on this launch for a lot of people and lack of communication can make it extremely nerve wracking for folks who have invested a lot of money into this.

Tom says:

Marc,
Yours is a different story. I understand where you are coming from completely. My comments were directed to people complaining about slow update notifiers, poor reviews, and talking of boycotting the store because of it.
If you are in the queue for upload, they should absolutely keep you notified of what is going on. No question.

Rene Ritchie says:

@Marc:
Thank you very much for writing in, expanding on, and explaining your situation. Part of the problem, no doubt from both a user and developer perspective, is the newness and opacity of the system (not that opacity is new for Apple!)
Hope to see your app in the store soon, I'm sure many are waiting on it.

Judie says:

Marc, I was a Windows eWallet user and LOVED the app for its ease of data entry and update. Since, alas, there was no eWallet available via App Store for the iPhone, I just plunked down my $9.99 for SplashID. I hesitate to enter all my data, though, because the entry is so cumbersome...not nearly as smooth and efficient as eWallet. Now I hear that eWallet may be coming and I should've saved my $9.99--I will wait patiently until that wonderful day when eWallet finally appears and pay whatever you ask so I can have my eWallet efficiency back. Thanks for hanging in there, Illium, don't give up!