In a Wired interview with Brett Simmons, creator of the NetNewsWire application for the iPhone, it was revealed that Apple is holding back updates that Brett has made to his application for over a week, in which time he has made five maintenance releases, fixing many customer complaints. Why are the updates being held back? It ends up that Apple is testing each and every application and update that is submitted to the App Store before it is listed in the App Store.
I have two issues with this. First, if Apple is sufficiently testing these apps before they are listed, then why would they require bug fixing updates to begin with? Is Apple really gaining anything by "testing" these apps before listing them? If they are only testing to make sure that the app is not malicious, then I would expect them to show a level of trust to application developers who have a track record of submitting solid, non-malicious apps to the store. Mozilla follows a similar model with Addons.Mozilla.Org (AMO), where a trust is built up between Mozilla and a developer, eventually allowing the developer to post updates directly to AMO without the addon having to be vetted by any people at Mozilla.
Issue number two: Since all apps in the App Store are monetized, then couldn’t developers argue that Apple is hurting their income by preventing them from offering fixes for their apps? If an app gains a reputation for being buggy or slow even though a version that fixes all of that is awaiting approval from Apple, there is nothing the developer can do to regain their lost reputation and revenue. Telling the users that an update is being held up by Apple will likely get them nowhere since most App Store users are most likely not privy to the application listing process. They would most likely see this as little more than an excuse while the developer scrambles to fix their application. With Firefox, you can install an addon from any website you want, allowing a developer a completely separate channel to distribute their addon through that bypasses the vetting process on AMO. However, with the iPhone, you can only get applications through the App Store, unless you want to jailbreak your phone, leaving you with no alternate channel to distribute your application.
I am curious why more iPhone developers are not up-in-arms about this. Their reputations are being harmed and their profits decreased because Apple has chosen to lock down the App Store and not trust the developers that are helping the iPhone reach new heights. If Apple would only follow the model that is used by Mozilla on AMO, then I am sure developers and users would be much happier.