App Store Update: More Apps, Less Free, No Demos, Devs Still Daunted?

Jobs Speaks About App Store

During Apple's Q3 Conference Call on Monday, Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook reported that, like the iTunes Store, App Store is not meant to generate revenue but to drive iPhone and iPod Touch sales. They've added 400 Apps to the 500 available at launch, bringing the total (at call time) to 900, though the percentage of FREE (as in beer, not speech) Apps has fallen from 25% (~125 at launch) to 20% (~180 now). Under $10 Apps remained constant at 90%. Seems like that's the current magic ceiling for many developers. And with over 25 million downloads and counting, they may be right.

What else is going on in App Land? Read on to find out!

With new Apps hitting the store at an ever-increasing rate, be sure to check out Brian's ongoing iPhone App Avalanche watch list, and for feed-reading demons, Pinch Media is providing both New iPhone Apps and New FREE iPhone Apps lists via RSS.

Dieter mentioned how well received the iPhone SDK/App Store offering has been by some developers, including those coming from other handset backgrounds such as RIM and their Java environment. Exposure developer Fraser Speirs goes so far as to say the iPhone will be Apple's mainstream platform by 2012. Gleeful over the 1,000,000 iPhone 3G sales opening weekend, he says:

[M]y iPhone app, Exposure, has picked up on average 3,200 new users per day since the App Store opened. Exposure already has twice as many users as FlickrExport for Aperture.

Developer Ilium, who we previously mentioned had mixed feelings over the silence surrounding how long it would take Apple to approve Apps for the Store, finally saw their eWallet app appear (look for a TiPb review shortly). 1Password developers Agile Web Solutions, however, are still waiting.

NetNewsWire developer Brent Simmons, meanwhile, vented to Wired about the secrecy and slowness surrounding the SDK and App Store approval process, including 4 updates to his App Store app having been uploaded but not yet made available to end users.

The platform is wonderful. It’s like what we’re already used to — Cocoa on Macs — but smaller and more streamlined, and, well, tons of fun to work on. The secrecy makes it difficult. For Mac programming, there are all kinds of resources — mailing lists, bits of code posted on the web, wikis, other developers — to help out. It makes a difference. For iPhone programming, no. We’re not supposed to discuss actually programming on the iPhone with anybody — even though that would raise the quality of the apps. The secrecy and locked-down approach also made getting beta testers on board pretty difficult. I bricked one of my co-worker’s phones in the attempt. (He got it un-bricked a day later. Temporary brickage.)

Martin Gordon has experienced this first hand, with his Flickr based App getting rejected by Apple not once but twice. First time it took two weeks for Apple to notify him it was rejected for failure to provide log-out or account changing functionality. Second time was for a free demo version of his app, with Apple advising that while "Free" and "Lite" versions were fine, no mention of demo or beta, or reduced functionality that references features available only in a "full" version, were allowed:

In spite of the lightning fast turnaround time, I am still just as angry about this rejection than the last one since there was no prior warning (in program agreements or otherwise) that demo versions would not be allowed. It's hard to believe that Apple isn't aware that people are crying out for demos and trials; going as far as explicitly prohibiting them (while letting all other sorts of crap through) is nothing short of infuriating.

When asked via Twitter about the free vs. paid version of his own app, Twitterrific, developer Craig Chokeberry revealed:

Both versions are fully functional. The one with ads actually has more functionality :-) [...] Nope. Themes are not functions. [...] We spent a fair amount of time negotiating these points with Apple. They want don't demos in the store. A good thing, IMHO.

Though his frustration at the SDK NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement -- which among other things prevents developers from discussing App development even with each other) is pretty clear (warning: explicit language).

So, Apple is poised to revolutionize mobile applications with their iPhone SDK development and App Store deployment model, but (again!) their Kremlin-eque secrecy is causing headaches for developers and users alike. Is the influx of new Apps still drowning Apple's processing and support capabilities? Are they stretched too thin to whip up a developers-only discussion area, even in the secure developer.apple.com site? And even if both of those things are true, could they not have Scott Foretall, or even someone in PR, post something to let devs know Apple hears their pain points and will eventually, in some way, address them?

Or is this all just mountain out of molehill stuff, and the same types of growth problems any widespread launch of a new platform will encounter?

Are you a developer? A user? What do you think?

Rene Ritchie

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

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App Store Update: More Apps, Less Free, No Demos, Devs Still Daunted?

9 Comments

think about what would happen if apple put those restrictions on developers of software for mac OS X (computer version), they may as well shut up shop.

As a developer, all this crap has certainly affected my image of Apple as a company, but until Android, at least, they're the only game in town, so you've got to play by their rules, whether you like it or not.

There may be a lot of apps, but half of them are junk. I have bought several that are excellent, but when I browse for more I get tired of culling through all the junk and just move on. Just how many flashlight apps does there need to be?
And in reading the reviews, many are very crashy although it's not clear if that's a 2.0 issue or a developer issue. I tend to believe that it is a 2.0 issue given what's been posted here and elsewhere, and that the SDK looked to be a pretty bulletproof method for developers.
I do think it's humorous that some people say in their reviews that they're sure the app will get the bugs fixed in a future update... News flash: It's not unreasonable to expect it to work right the first time.
I would like to see less junk and duplication, and instead see a wider range of more useful apps or even games.

I agree with badmofo's "less junk/duplication" comment, except on the flipside... if apple only allowed there to be one of each kind of app, that would be bad, right? What if they allowed only two? What if they allowed only three? Where's the line supposed to go?

I guess when I say, "that would be bad.." I mean, as a user who is lazy and does not want to flip through endless apps, it would be good, but for developers to be specially 'chosen', it would be a nightmare because there's only one place to get iPhone software and most developers are used to simply selling what they develop without worrying about it being "chosen" to be sold.

@thekevinmonster:
Good point and I agree with you. My guess is Apple could rank them based on quality, number of downloads, and customer rating, and limit them to a certain number that way. There's got to be a happy medium out there somewhere.

why is Apple charging Ipod Touch users to upgrade to 2.0 for $10 buck? This should be free, especially given that I am buying content and software with this upgrade. I am a MobileMe user unfortunately and there is no way I am paying for the Ipod Touch SW upgrade.

The waiting game sucks, but what's worse is we are completely in the dark. We need to release the Mac & iPhone versions of 1Password in tandem but we have no clue when we will be added to the App Store.
We search the App Store each day looking for 1Password. Once we see it we'll publish 1Password 2.8 for Mac so people can sync properly. I dislike being in 'reactive mode' like this but we have little choice.