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Who's Minding the App Store?

  • Posted: Saturday, August 02, 2008
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  • Author: pradhana
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  • Filed under: iPhone

By Jason Ankeny

Three weeks after Apple's iPhone 3G dropped at retail, the computing giant appears to have corrected the activation hiccups and MobileMe synchronization snafus that plagued the device coming out of the gate. By comparison, Apple's fledgling App Store has so far managed to avoid the scrutiny and bad publicity that accompanied the other new iPhone initiatives; according to Apple, users downloaded more than 10 million applications in the three days after the virtual storefront opened for business, with that number rising to 25 million by July 21.

Earlier this week, the total number of iPhone applications available via the App Store topped the 1,000 mark, with roughly 20 percent of applications available for free and 90 percent of the premium apps costing $10 or less. No less significant, the App Store user experience is a hit as well: A new study issued this week by market research firm Strategy Analytics says the App Store delivers an efficient, three-click purchasing and downloading process that earned high consumer satisfaction ratings from participants.

Strategy Analytics adds that the simplicity of the App Store reinforces consumer confidence and promotes additional user exploration and purchases.But some applications developers are finding the App Store experience anything but satisfactory. According to developers interviewed by Macworld, their frustrations have much to do with the length of time it requires Apple to push their software updates to iPhone users.

In addition, some developers say Apple consistently fails to relay information on when their apps will go live. Moreover, Apple has yet to provide App Store sales data, so developers are unsure how their iPhone applications are faring. Apple has pledged to share monthly sales reports, but some developers are calling for real-time statistics in order to gauge sales and adjust prices accordingly.

At this point, even Apple's internal application review process remains a mystery: "They reject apps for superficial things (icon being the wrong size, confusingly worded messages) while sometimes major bugs slip in under the radar," an iPhone developer who requested anonymity told Macworld. "It seems pretty haphazard and human-powered rather than automated." Nor is there any apparent rhyme nor reason to the software update process, although another unnamed developer charged Apple with favoring large companies over small, independent firms. "We submitted an update a week ago, and it still isn't updated," the developer said.

"Some apps seem to get updated quickly, so some type of favoritism is evident. I've seen one day, and then I've seen two weeks--no one knows why the disparity, either ... It's either favoritism or just general chaos." The latter alternative seems far more likely--after all, the App Store isn't even a month old. There are bound to be wrinkles to iron out. But the longer Apple keeps its growing legion of application partners at arm's length, the more some developers will continue to fear the worst. [FierceMobileContent]

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