Tuesday, 15 July 2008

App Store Trials and Tribulations

I got my first iPhone application submitted and accepted onto the App Store for its launch. Here are my impressions of the process so far.

As a developer, once you've built an application and tested it on the device, and digitally signed it with an Apple-issued distribution certificate, the application is submitted to the App Store via iTunes Connect, which is a simple web application. All the meta-data for the App Store is entered at this point. I have a few small gripes about it and was hampered by a bug that didn't let me change details on a subsequent upload, but otherwise it's simple and does the job.

The application only appears on the App Store once it has been reviewed and approved by Apple. The first time around this took two days, but the rate at which they are approving releases seems to have slowed to a crawl now. I submitted an update more than a week ago, which has yet to be approved. In fact, I now have another update ready (which should be my last). My concern around the slowness of the approval process is that if there is a pressing update you need to roll out, it will take as long as Apple decide it will take and as a developer you have no control over this.

Once the application is on the App Store, you are at the mercy of the iTunes community. I am not convinced that the reviewing mechanism used for music is appropriate to applications. I've had several low ratings (zero or one star) simply because there is a free version of something similar and mine costs £1.19. Being as objective as I can, I can honestly say that the free version is free for a reason - it's not very good. Allowing people that haven't even downloaded the application to give it a rating is opening the door to this sort of abuse. It can be really gutting to see your rating drop, especially when the reviewers haven't been fair, or even downloaded the application in the first place. This of course has the knock-on effect that fewer people download it because of the low ratings. Given the months of hard work that went into producing my application, I can't understand why someone that hasn't downloaded it is able to review it and thus directly impact how many people are likely to download it. Apple, you need to change this!

My last gripe is that Apple don't provide any download statistics to the developer. A monthly report is produced, but in the fast moving world of online sales surely daily stats wouldn't be too much to expect?

Update: old news now, but Apple are providing daily and weekly stats.