Apple App Store Scalability Issues and Subjective Rejections

I found a wonderful article by Craig Hockenberry regarding Apple’s big iPhone and App Store issue. This link says it all regarding the issues with Apple’s inability to keep developers happy. Whenever I think back to what put Microsoft atop the operating system market, the first thing that comes to mind is Microsoft’s support of the developers. Though many developers agree that the documentation for the Windows API isn’t all that great, it is there and Microsoft does support it. Also, Microsoft allows us to write what we want without any requirement to run our code through a quality control structure. Granted, this is perhaps the reason why there are so many viruses (and junk) written on Windows, but this has also allowed developers to freely create innovative programs that enable Microsoft to still take a big piece of the operating system market.

Now having a quality control system in place such as Apple’s iPhone reviewers is a great idea because it prevents malware from getting on your phone. No one refutes that. But as soon as you get wrapped into what and how they are reviewing, you quickly find out that the process is a self-defeating one covered with a thick layer of subjective decision making. Take for instance a FreeSWITCH Console application I wrote a few months back. The application merely does asynchronous socket communication with an open source FreeSWITCH server instance that has the “event socket layer” module installed. It’s a clean pass-through client, built for developers that does nothing more than relay commands that you, the developer, must know. I submitted the application for review on June 5, 2009. They just got around to finally responding on July 26, 2009. What is with this horrible delay? It speaks clearly that there is a lack of scalability in the Apple reviewer model. Here is an email I received from the reviewing staff the other day.

Hello Chris,

Thank you for your emails and the clarifications. The account you provided and the instructions you gave do show the application as functional. However, since the application allows users to connect to any FreeSWITCH server, we need to be able to review all features that a FreeSWITCH server can implement, which include functions such as SIP and PBX.

Please respond to this email with the necessary information, and please upload a new binary to iTunes Connect.

iPhone Developer Program

Let me explain this further. They are asking me to provide them with a SIP/PBX account so that they can go beyond testing my application and begin testing the FreeSWITCH server! If you’ve ever delved into the FreeSWITCH server code itself, you know that it is a well written and scalable telephony application that is incredibly complex. I just want my app in the app store so that other developers can enjoy using their iPhones and iPod Touches to control their developer instances of FreeSWITCH! So why all the trouble, Apple?

As you can see, this has gone well and beyond testing for malware. This is a reviewer subjectively deciding to test a really cool FreeSWITCH server. Now, I have no trouble with that, just don’t do it on my dime. I’ll be re-posting the FreeSWITCH application into the iTunes Connect system in about 3 weeks when my blood has stopped boiling.

I have another application (which will remain unnamed for the time being) that I’m trying to get into the App Store as well. First off, I am planning on charging for this one in the Tier 1 model which basically equates to the customer paying $.99. I posted this app on the store 6 days ago. Last night, I received the infamous “taking unexpected additional time for review” email. Two hours later, I received the Section 3.3.14 death sentence response::

Dear Mr. Danielson,

Thank you for submitting ‘Removed App Name’ to the App Store. We’ve reviewed ‘Removed App Name’ and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains objectionable content and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement which states:

“Applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.”

If you believe that you can make the necessary changes so that ‘Removed App Name’ does not violate the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, we encourage you to do so and resubmit it for review.

iPhone Developer Program

Wow. My application truly pales in comparison to the likes of Easy-E, Cannibal Corpse, Geto Boys, and any R-rated movies Apple already sells on iTunes, let alone the other similarly themed apps that are already available. We’re hoping it was our bad luck that we had a reviewer with a dulled sense of humor… anyway we’re now attempting to get it posted into the App Store with some minor revisions.

I’ve really digressed a bit in this blog, but my basic point is that Apple’s App Store Reviewing squad is uncoordinated in their decision making skills. I’ve read online that people with the 3.3.14 issue have only to change their description text and successfully re-submit. If this is the case, then we truly do know that Apple is fraught with subjectivity and developer’s livelihoods are being toyed with. Why not take the high road Apple? Allow applications into the store by merely testing for any sort of malware, and using your already-existing rating system for content. Leave the ultimate purchase decision up to the consumer. Heck, you can hire my company MaxPowerSoft and we’ll even write the grep scripts to automate the red-flagging for any submitted applications. Just don’t cut out your developers – they could be your lifeblood.

Special thanks to my brother Nic Danielson for reviewing and editing this post.

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  1. #1 by Gregor on July 28th, 2009

    That sucks! That’s a lot of work to have it rejected at the end by Apple. A better review model is needed!!

  2. #2 by Diego Viola on July 28th, 2009

    Apple sucks, I always say it and I say it again, apple sucks.

    FreeSWITCH rules.

  3. #3 by Anthony Minessale on July 28th, 2009

    Could it be that it infringes on their attempt to dominate the communications software industry and they view it as competition?

  4. #4 by Chris Danielson on July 28th, 2009

    Anthony, thanks for the comment. Apple may very well be stopping the movement of the app into the store because they fear that the SIP call could somehow be using the 3G network. As you already know, it is a complete misunderstanding of the fact that this is merely an implementation of the ESL module. Nothing more than a basic socket based console. I know that the guys who wrote “SipPhone” which is now known as “iSip” have had one heck of a time getting their SIP phone into the store. This includes every time they make an update. Basically, the rules of SIP on the iPhone is that it cannot use the 3G network and must only use the WiFi connection. Perhaps this is the nature of the issue.

  5. #5 by Anthony Minessale on July 28th, 2009

    Maybe you could re-submit it worded differently to underscore something else you can get from ESL like the status message and bill it as a way to fetch server status information. *shrug*

  6. #6 by Chris Danielson on July 28th, 2009

    Anthony Minessale :

    Maybe you could re-submit it worded differently to underscore something else you can get from ESL like the status message and bill it as a way to fetch server status information. *shrug*

    Anthony, great point. I’m going to take a little time tomorrow evening and begin the process of upgrading the FS Console code to the iPhone 3.0 framework. After that is completed and tested on my end, I’ll push a final version out to Apple which will include the newer description. Thanks for the input.

  7. #7 by Pex on July 30th, 2009

    Why don’t you post all that rejected applications to cydia? Why is it that everyone wants to get into that obviously shitty appstore just to earn some stupid 99 cents per download? How fucking money hungry do you have to be? Just share it with your fellow iphone hackers and you will profit from their generosity vice versa. In the end we will all have great mobile phones with amazing capabilities. Appstore developers are seriously stupid.

  8. #8 by Chris Danielson on July 30th, 2009

    Thank you for the reply. Great point regarding posting to cydia. I will look into it further. However, it’s not being money hungry to seek a small compensation for one’s work. My brother and I have spent the last 3 months working our nights and weekends diligently on our $.99 application and frankly we’d like to get it bubbled up into the App Store limelight. A lot of the technology industry is still caught up in this “free is good” mentality. Free is good if you have a revenue model of sorts that can continue to support the project. For instance, many developers on the market offer up software, but have a consultant model they use to keep themselves and the project afloat. That revenue model works. Just releasing what my brother and I have done for free, has no revenue model. We can’t consult on an entertainment/game application. Thanks again for your comment.

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