Poll: Should Apple Improve the iPhone App Store, Eliminate It, or Both?

Should Apple improve the iPhone App Store, eliminate it as a single point of access to iPhone apps, or both? Given that Apple's response to the FCC indicated there were only 40+ full-time, trained reviewers for the App Store, and 8500 apps a week for them the review, simple math makes it appear a challenge (as does casual observation of review times). Since the App Store is the only way, outside of enterprise or beta provisioning, to get native apps on the iPhone and iPod touch, depending on your point of view this is either not a problem, an untenable bottleneck, or only half of a better, more workable solution. So what can be done?

First, Apple could try to continue to improve the App Store as is. They could hire more reviewers, improve and make more transparent the review criteria, and otherwise create an environment that's more predictable and sane for developers.

Second, as Facebook developer Joe Hewitt suggests, they could get rid of the App Store and simply allow developers to release whatever they want. Hewitt claims this works well enough for the Web and WebApps, and it's currently similar to the model Google is using for the Android Marketplace where, after a series of automated bug tests, the app is simply released. If, post-release, the community flags the app as inappropriate (i.e. copyright violation) or malicious, Google will investigate and potentially remove it.

Third, Engadget suggests Apple create a hybrid model where the App Store remains for those users who want an uber-safe, Apple controlled single point of access, but Apple also allows for "side-loading" applications from other sources. Similar to the (currently restricted to 100 users) Ad Hoc distro method, or Enterprise provisioning method already in place, this means applications not approved for the App Store could still be downloaded and installed via iTunes.

Check out the poll up top and let us know what you think!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

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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Poll: Should Apple Improve the iPhone App Store, Eliminate It, or Both?


I think that Apple should do very little to approve apps. They should make sure they work, don't crash on obvious things, ensure they're not trojans or viruses and then release it. I'd even say that they should make sure the app is not blatant pornography as well (but that's a different issue really).
Basically they need to just let people develop for the platform, and not limit what is and is not released just because they don't want to release it.

I think that Apple's influence on apps, while heavy handed at times is a good thing for the overall user experience. I have heard stories about folks with Android phones where the developer has deals with other developers or companies and has coded in too many ads or required you to jump through hoops simply to get to your app. That's the last think I want - especially if I pay for the app. Apple prevents a lot of this nonsense from happening and I'm happy that they do. Having the option to side load is nice and while it may lower the price I'm not sure what else it will accomplish.

Couldn't agree with The Reptile anymore. I would hate to have to go through random things here and there just to get to use the app.

The App Store is the channel that delivers the Apps to the user. Without the App Store, the average user wouldn't know where to go to get Apps (Think of your mom or grandma here).
I also think Apple will not let users load 3rd part Apps on the side because of the support nightmare that could/would follow. Apps would start crashing people's phones and their support lines would be flooded. If you don't think this is likely, try jailbreaking your phone and installing Apps. Alot of Apps will crash your phone upon install.
The easiest solution would be for Apple to stop being such tight a$$es and start letting the developers develop instead of fighting the approval process, etc.

You hate cops until you get robed at gun point and wish one lived next door. Can you imagine the chaos? You would have all these knuckle heads hacking into your phone just for fun. We need a go to guy when things go wrong and Apple is doing just that. It may be inconvenient right now to wait a few weeks for the review process but I never have to think twice before downloading an App. I hate a lot of things about Apple and they have many areas where they can improve but overall they have done a great job managing the app store.

I think Apple is doing okay with the App store. They just need to control it better. If anybody is loading apps then you run into issue with apps being unsafe accessing other info on the phone or over using hardware resources ie. Battery or memory.
Lastly, with better control, the app store will be full of usefull apps beaus everybody making apps just as a get-rich-quick scheme.

Chaos if they let us choose our own software?? LOL! Really? I don't see it. WinMo and BB users have always been able to choose their own software without mommy Microsoft or daddy RIM giving approval. No chaos has ensued.

Step 1: jailbreak your iPhone
Step 2: install a whole bunch of apps through Cydia including winterboard, intelliscreen, etc.
Step 3: watch your iPhone 3g speed and performance crumble to the ground
That is why Apple keeps a lid on 3rd party apps.

Can't Apple just hire a some more reviewers?
I really think this is why a lot of apps get turned down. It's not so much about their content as it is about simple triage. If they had a bit more time to QC the whole thing, I'm thinking it would be more organized and timely while still having good control.

Like when I loaded a different keyboard on my HTC Touch and it became unusable? Like when I loaded Opera and it sucked up all my system resources? Like when I loaded a skinning tool and then I couldn't even use my touchscreen anymore.
I can point to TONS of forums over at WMExperts with people having constant software problems.
I don't miss those days.

I love the app store and would not want it removed.
Compared to current third party alternatives(Cydia...) it's lightyears away from the competition.
They should just relax some of the rules and get way more reviewers. If they let people volunteer to be app reviewers I'm sure they could get a whole lot of them.

I'd think they need at least 400 reviewers. With 8500 apps for only 40 reviewers we're lucky if an app is approved in 2 weeks(iSniper and their weekly updates being the exception of course)

@Joe: why should I have to void my warranty to use the phone the way I want? And if really crumbles if daddy Jobs isn't micro managing my use of apps then something is wrong with hardware.
@Jason: if an app causes problems on a winmo device guess what? You uninstall it. And you get to try before you buy so no problem. Winmo phones don't brick unless you hack them with a modded OS which is not what we are talking about here (and no different then bricking an iPhone with jailbreaking.)

I just want my facebook app NOW!!! I find myself checking all the time for updates. Come on Apple add a few more people to the staff of 40 fulltime people approving & reviewing apps.

I think they could improve it by making the approval process similar to the Android Marketplace. The current process isn't scalable enough, and it's too slow and unpredictable.

They can't get rid of the App Store. It's too large at this point and it is just so easy for anyone to figure out how to get apps. I know Apple wants it to be as open and friendly to the little guys as possible, but I think that is hurting the store.
Tons of people I know now that have recently gotten iPhones always look at me like I am crazy when I pay for apps. I show them something cool and they just blurt out, I don't pay for apps.
It also appears that while Apple has "control" of what goes in the store, that they have zero control of the actual store. Does anyone at Apple besides the reviewers even look at what is in the App Store? Who is in charge of that? It is full of trash and is an utter mess to sift though to find worthy apps. I can't believe Steve Jobs can even stand to look at it himself. It appears as there is no common sense and just that if it passes review it gets in, no matter how useless it may be.
At the very least they need to triple the number of reviewers. Allow for a program where developers can submit quick updates to already established apps. And hire someone to actually think about what is getting put up in the App Store.
The 65,000 app figure they spew out all the time is a joke. It can't be more than 3-5,000 max.

The App Store is a wonderful buffer that (almost always) ensures proper operation for the apps we all enjoy. Besides the apps, the way that they are presented also caters to all of our yearning for that smooth, classy interface that we have gotten used to, being iPhone users. All that needs to happen is what every other media platform has undergone: first, it is filtered and censored, then as time goes on a rating system is implemented and any kind of content can be accessed, depending on the age of the consumer. Just be patient, people!

Improving the app store would definitely be the best option. The idea of eliminating it is simply retarded, why would apple want to kill off one of the major selling points of the iPhone?!

God I wish everyone would quit whining about the App store. It's such a boring topic and really annoying. When you are using a fledgling business model there are bound to be issues. People are taking this way too personal.

The App store is, in general, a "good thing". But... (and there are always buts...)
1) I completely agree with the call for more reviewers. You know they have to be under a lot of pressure to get through apps and that reduces the effectiveness of what they are trying to do.
2) I'm not an iPhone developer, so I don't know the process but... have developers only submit code, which is then compiled and that is used for what goes in the App store. (There's a reason, hold on. :-) )
3) Have an option for developers to choose whether an app is Apple approved or not. Even apps that aren't Apple-approved still would have to be in Cocoa and therefore wouldn't be able to get around the sandboxing effect that exists now. (Hopefully limiting their potential negative impact on the iPhone.)
4) Additionally, have an easy-to-find option in iTunes for showing Apple-approved, not Apple-approved or both sets of apps. (Default to only showing Apple-approved.)
5) Make iTunes better for finding good apps and weeding out the chaff.
If they wanted to, a developer could throw something out there not Apple-approved (quick to get into the App store), get a following/feedback, make changes and resubmit it for Apple approval.
This would allow the App store to remain as the one-stop shop it is now, developers the ability to put out whatever they want and not have to wait for approval, but would also give customers a warning that they aren't using something that has been proven to be safe and acceptable.

I'd really like to see Apple make the review process optional. Allow developers to publish directly to the live store AND THEN submit for review. Once an app has been approved by Apple it could receive a "CERTIFIED BY APPLE" badge that displays at the top of the apps page letting users know the code has been analyzed and approved for stability, and free of malicious code.
If they're also concerned about content they could set the rule that an app must be listed as 17+ if it is published to the live store before it is approved, then once it has been certified it can have its age rating lowered.
Allowing apps to go straight to the live store with the OPTION of later certification will reduce the volume of apps that Apple has to review, but the the ability to use a rating lower than 17+ and the added attention a "CERTIFIED BY APPLE" badge would bring would likely encourage many developers to still apply for review.
To further encourage Apple review AFTER the app has been published to the store, Apps in the review process could be badged "UNDER REVIEW" or "CERTIFICATION PENDING" and an application never submitted for review would also be labeled as such "APP NOT CERTIFIED".
This could only be a Win-Win for the consumer and would ease the strain on the Apple-Developer relationship.

If you really think software crashing hardware is always the hardware's fault, you obviously don't understand computers or electronics...
As far as uninstalling something that doesn't work...
Apple caters to the masses and doesn't care what nerdy iPhone blog people think (sorry guys, but face it, we're nerds). The average iPhone user would have to call Apple support if their phone started crashing or became unusable after installing 3rd party software. My mom calls me twice a year to tell me her printer doesn't work anymore. It's almost always because it's out of ink, and she has no idea.

Obviously you have completely bought in to the BS shoveled by Apple and Daddy Jobs on this issue. But reality is that it just ain't so. The point is the world's of average users with WinMo and RIM do not come crashing down, and their phones work just fine despite the fact that yes, they can install whatever apps they want on their phones without the app having to be approved by MS or RIM.
So I would argue with your very premise. And if by some odd chance you are correct, then the hardware is the problem. This is 2009, and smartphone users have been able to manage to choose their own apps and without problem for over a decade. Unless it's an Apple product, that is.

No hacks or mods. Just bought the apps (there were no demo options). Uninstall is a no go when the only interface to the device you have has been crippled.
So are we talking tech support now? I thought we were talking about how it never happens in the land of MS...

Apple needn't do much of anything to keep most people from bitching about the app store. All they have to do is give up the notion that jailbreaking is illegal and quit going out of their way to break the jailbreak process with every OS update. They don't have to support jailbroken phones, they don't have to embrace the jailbreak process, they just have to quit actively impeding it.
The market will take care of the rest. Those that want a fully Apple managed experience can have it, and more power to 'em. Those that want things Apple refuses to offer can do their own thing. ATT can block apps on its network if it wants or sell ala carte plans.
While Apple is at it they could quit actively keeping desktop software from syncing with and managing songs on the iPhone. They don't have to support it just quit changing the hash tables and charging people with DMCA violations when they try to read the tables to make software interface with the iPhone.

@jason: I would love to know the name of these apps you are talking about. I can't remember a single WinMo app that didn't have the option of a trial download. And all you have to do to fix it if there is a problem is do a hard reset and restore (just like when an Iphone bricks, by the way).
Really, do we have to make things up about WinMo phones to defend Apple's ridiculous policies? If so, then right there you should know the policy is ridiculous.

FIX THE POLL: I just voted 3 times, to test it out. use IP to block more voting (although, there are rolling IP accounts). Also, please don't report any results from this as this is obviously a flawed survey.

@Rene: Thanks for fixing the polls so when I view the results I don't have the majority be an inch and a half thick. But nice work on the polls all together. And I think @The Reptile has an excellent point. Downloading an app from the App Store doesn't even cross my mind that there is something totally ridiculous, minus the content/subject of the app itself, apple does some pretty tight quality control. Sure there may have been a few slip ups here and there, but weren't there a few flaws in, say, the automobile?

@Hakala: well you've hit on another drawback of the app store policies. Why can't we have try before you buy? If we did, devs wouldn't do that sort of thing. Apple could put policies in place that were self policing on devs, and even the astroturf reviews would go away. Problem is Apple would rather be your momma and your daddy than simply a hardware / software / music vendor.

Everyone's screaming for more openness in the App Store citing Android as an example and then they complain when they have so-called "useless" apps like iFart. It's either one or the other, people. You can't have both! If you want it open, let the good and the bad in. One man's trash is another man's gold. Opinions about apps are just that - OPINIONS. It's all subjective anyway.