iPhone App Store roulette: A tale of rejection

Apple's random rules for iPhone app approval are a recipe for trivial apps and alienated developers

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Not that this matters. There are already 65,000-plus applications out there and it's difficult to find anything in the store. Typing in the name of my app title, "Free for All," brings up a long list of other applications like "iFart Mobile -- #1 Fart Machine for All Ages." I've yet to find my own app after paging through the long list provided by the so-called search button. Putting quote marks around it makes no difference. The only way people can get to my application seems to be if I lead them directly to it from my Web site. Yet Apple justifies taking the 30 percent in part because the App Store is doing some of the marketing. Fulfillment, yes, but its marketing reminds me of the GUM Department Store before Gorbachev, when any question beginning, "Do you have...?" always drew the same response: "Nyet."

When the kind phone caller with bad news asked if I had other questions, I brought up my big one about whether open source was really a "private API." That was too much for him to handle, he said. I could write the e-mail address, though, and he was sure I would get a response. When I told him that I rarely heard back, he just paused and said he was sure they would get to it. Sure.

Once again, Apple can't manage to enforce rules like the one about charity with any uniformity. Just as some PhoneGap apps slip through the mechanism, there are dozens of programs that give their proceeds to charities; they can be found by typing the word "charity" into the App Store search box. That search term seems to work well. The iFart developers aren't giving their proceeds to charity? Go figure.

Behind the Magic 8-Ball
I'm not the only one who has experienced these endless inconsistencies. Here's a list of adjectives that people have used: arbitrary, suicidal, baffling, silly, ludicrous, Russian roulette, grumpy, ridiculous, giant middle finger, and many more unprintable words.

Can any company run something like the App Store, even one so absolutely fabulous and supremely cool? Central control on a large scale has a poor track record. Just as the Soviets didn't have the time to make all of the decisions about the economy with any consistency, Apple can't afford to hire the people to enforce the App Store restrictions with the care they require. I know I've never misused the UIWebView object, but I doubt the reviewers have the time or the energy to care. Apple doesn't read the code but somehow wants to enforce rules that require that level of scrutiny.

The more I talk to other developers and look at my own experiences, the more I conclude that the reviewing process isn't any better than random. Why would one version of my app be accepted and one be tossed out the door, even after I took away all references to charity? So we just submit things, cross our fingers, and submit again.

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