Developers v. Apple: Outlining Complaints about the App Store

Originally published at: Developers v. Apple: Outlining Complaints about the App Store - TidBITS

Apple’s App Store policies continue to incite ire from developers and face increasing scrutiny from government regulators. We outline the most common complaints against the company, evaluate them, and propose potential solutions.

Quibble: Kagi was founded in 1994 (I was their first customer and signed contracts with them in August 1994).

I’ve been making a living selling Mac software online since then, and Apple comparing 2008 App Store sales to “bricks & mortar” shops as if that was the only solution is profoundly misleading and offensive. Gaslighting at its finest.

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30% is a lot of money. If you deduct taxes then there isn’t a lot of money that remains for the developer.

As developer the whole “experience” of the AppStore process is a bad one.

Certificates: they work until they don’t work. Bad error messages. Too many certificates with different bad names.

Contracts: Apple decides that you need to sign new contracts. I get an email with a link. The contracts are at a different location. If you forget to sign the contracts you get a badly worded error message.

Review: I want to do a new dot release for my app. Reviewer is complaining about a feature that has been in the AppStore for months. Recently they decided that a specific function is bad. Every app that used the function was rejected with no prior warning. The best advice for getting through the review process is to just submit again to get a different reviewer.

Functionality: only severly castrated apps are allowed in the AppStore. AppleScript for Mail: no. Accessing data for Thunderbird or Postbox: no.

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That usually (plus some arguments I’m not sure were actually read) was what worked for my free little iOS app (http://pobox.com/~flash/EncycloClip). Once I used the official appeal process, after a little chat with the executive who suggested a cartoonist “consider resubmitting” his rejected app after he won the Pulitzer prize. Another time my app was quietly approved after I posted a review noting that my update was being delayed.
Eventually my app was removed, in violation of Apple’s stated App Review Guidelines, because I hadn’t needed to update it. It seemed obvious that the rep just wanted me to re-post the app so that the mod time was updated, which I couldn’t do for unrelated reasons.

Thanks! Bloomberg has it wrong.

Kagi Inc - Company Profile and News - Bloomberg Markets.

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Ben Thompson of Stratechery has, as usual, some well-considered points to make about the situation Apple is in.

In regard to the Epic lawsuit, he notes:

This lawsuit is also a reminder that Apple has a lot to lose. While the most likely outcome is an Apple victory — the Supreme Court has been pretty consistent in holding that companies do not have a “duty to deal” — every decision the company makes that favors only itself, and not society generally, is an invitation to examine just how important the iPhone is to, well, everything.

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Nice article! Regarding streaming games, isn’t this the opening wedge for having much of your other interactive software running (mostly) remotely? Perhaps Apple is legitimately worried about the associated loss of privacy and control, and the bad user experience when the network connection is poor?

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Thanks for the kind words, Norm. I mean, it’s possible, but Apple already allows many remote desktop apps. The tradeoff with game streaming apps like xCloud is that you deal with a bit of latency in exchange for running software on a device that couldn’t otherwise run it. Also, these services require tremendous data centers and other resources, because the games and the bandwidth requirements are about as demanding as it gets.

I don’t think it would make sense to distribute other types of software in this way.

You’re right, Josh, that this approach is probably only of specialized interest for the moment. And many apps already push their heavy lifting into the cloud. Still, this obviously reduces the incentive to make native versions of games for iOS, and creates new rules/monitoring/refund headaches for Apple. Nevertheless, I agree Apple is wrong here. This approach, with its strengths and weaknesses, should be allowed to compete.

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I wonder how this will play out when Apple releases its much anticipated VR and AR headset and/or glasse? The rumors I’ve been reading about are currently pegging an early 2022 release date for a headset.