Don't Touch Steve's iPhone Dock! The Reason Apps Get Rejected?

Daring Fireball has posted an interesting article that focuses on trust-issues developers have with Apple's current App Store approval process. In a pod-shell, they can't depend on Apple not to reject Apps they've invested time and money on, hence they are reluctant to develop the kind of Apps that require time and money, which are typically just the kind of innovative, mind-blowing Apps we really, really want them to develop and Apple not to reject. While DF's solution is both simple and profound, it's an analysis of just why Apple may have rejected PodCaster and MailWrangler, the two Apps whose rejection made manifest this developer fear:

The theory is that there is an unpublished rule that Apple — and in this case, where by “Apple” I really mean “Steven P. Jobs” — will not publish third-party apps that compete with or replace any of the four apps in the iPhone’s default “dock”: Phone, Mail, Safari, and iPod.

Why?

And so my guess is that while there may not be any logic, there’s at least a notion, if only in Jobs’s mind, that these four apps are sacrosanct because they define the iPhone. Everything else, both from Apple and from App Store developers, is piffle, secondary to those four apps.

While I remember there being another issue stated for MailWrangler's rejection: that it didn't allow users to edit their account information, it's impossible to know at this point whether or not fixing that and resubmitting it to the App Store would have gotten the developer any further (though I hope he at least tried?)

What do you think? Could a lot of the current App-angst be traced back to Apple's (and Steve Jobs') holding the iPhone dock applications sacred? And if so, if they clearly stated in the SDK "Thou Shalt Place No Apps Before the Them", would that go anywhere towards calming developer fears, or only increasing their frustration?

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.

Stephen says:

If this was true explain Fring a new VoIP app or Pandora, Simplify Media, Last.fm, vSnax, AOL Radio, Tuner, Flycast and Stitcher all compete with the iPod? Flycast competes with the iPod and Safari.

Dalekkiller says:

As Stephen says, there are apps that shouldn't be available if this rule applied. Maybe they just don't want apps that would compete too well with their native apps. Then again, there doesn't seem to be any logic with Apple. Some apps that do very little get through and then some are rejected for "limited functionality". Anyone think Apple are using a Magic 8 Ball to decide what gets through?

Stan Shire says:

Nice thought, but if true, Steve would have "locked" the dock apps. Don't tell him but I've moved Safari and replaced it with iCal.

scott says:

Interesting article. While reading this article I can't help to remember in the 80s and 90s Apple made everything a pain for game makers. I remember playing some awesome games when the first Mac came out. Then while looking for any game there was just no selection of games for the Mac or even Apples themselves. I would have figured they would app friendly after those fiasco times.

Ryan says:

Stephen, thanks so much for pointing those apps out that violate this rule. Now don't be surprised if they go poof next week.

Stephen says:

@Ryan,
I do not begin to say I understand Apple's decisions on the App Store. But most of the the apps I mentioned have been available for a long time in the App Store. Not like NetShare which went poof. I was one of the lucky ones that bought NetShare when it was available and it still works fine. I only use it sparingly however.

Alice says:

It's very simple. I can't believe so many 'smart' guys are pretending not to understand it:

  1. Apple can do what it wants. Did you REALLY foolishly think Apple would let you write software that replaces "Phone, Mail, Safari, and iPod"???
  2. Users don't want to have to choose between 3 different phones, 5 different mail-clients, 7 different browsers, and 5 differ ipod apps.

Duh.
Why not just say we DISAGREE with Apple... instead of saying "duh, we don't understand the NDA or why Apple is doing this horrible thing".
It's really very simple and very clear.

John B. Kendrick says:

I think there is a point in assuming that Apple holds some things sacrosanct and too competitive, however, I believe there may be something said for Apple wanting to maintain the reliability of the phone as well.
I wrote about this in a blog post at http://johnkendrick.wordpress.com/2008/08/06/was-steve-jobs-right-with-i...