Santa Claus for iPhone developers ?! Christmas gift from App Store ?!

Christmas time is a time for miracles and presents. Just imagine what could be considered a Christmas gift for iPhone developers 🙂

App Store acceptance procedure – main complaints

Recently there has been much ado about App Store policies that stifle and hurt developers. The main problems seem to be the long acceptance process and Apple’s “self-appointed right to deny an application that isn’t in its best interests”.

Developing an application for iPhone or iPod Touch is comparatively an easy part of the whole process. Once the app is functional, it must run through acceptance which can take long weeks. Even updates to existing applications must pass through this Iron Curtain. It could be frustrating indeed.

It is doubtful the review process needs to be eliminated completely: believe no user will be happy if a seemingly benign downloaded application could harm his/her iPhone device core functionality – cause it crash constantly, send hundreds of text messages or call Honduras. In exchange to have no worries many users are willing to accept reasonable delays in application approval.

From the side of a developer. There have been cases when the application was approved but then in a month or so “the mysterious masters of secrecy decided there was something very bad in the code”. What are the reasons for such delays? Some developers note an interesting thing – they often get a rejection notice almost exactly one week after they submit the app. They even have a crazy theory according to which the approval team is rated on statistics of how many applications are processed within a week of being submitted. So for Apple it would be better if App Store’s decisions were understandable (reasons for rejections) and predictable (when the decisions are to arrive). Now developers submit things, cross their fingers, and submit again.

Apple does miss many opportunities because this uncertainty does kill the incentive for developers – they become afraid to risk serious development time on the platform. Finally, creativity will find expression – many mobile developers have started to expand their mobile platform horizons by creating apps for Android, RIM, Palm’s Pre, and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile. “If Apple does go too far, users will look elsewhere for their phones or to third parties for their applications”.

Voila – the gift itself?!

Not long ago Apple approved three apps – Knocking Live Video, iSimulate, Ustream Live Broadcaster, – with one thing in common: they use private APIs, a violation of the iPhone developer agreement.

The use of private APIs is perhaps “the least contentious of all the strange and convoluted restrictions facing developers. Private APIs are programming functions that Apple does not document because they’re not considered “stable” — the way they work may change in future releases of the iPhone SDK, or they may disappear altogether. Developers are urged not to rely on these interfaces for key functionality of their products, which makes sense for the most part”.

The words so much desired by many iPhone developers: “While your application has not been rejected, it would be appropriate to resolve this issue [private API] in your next update”. Sounds like a real Christmas gift? From App Store reviewers.

So what is all that? Clemency? Christmas miracle? Or may be Apple is feeling platforms-competitors’ heat behind 🙂

It may seem to be a small change, but it is a real benefit: instead of having to once again go through the review process and having another couple of weeks of waiting, the developers can simply fix the issue in the next update they submit. It is hard to say right now whether it will be a wide-reaching policy, but “one is a fluke, two is a coincidence, and three is a trend”. Hopefully it will be like this.