Just like millions of other people I was really excited when Apple announced the AppStore for the iPhone. I immediately thought that this could be the thing that makes the iPhone a great buy despite the hardware failings (pretty cruddy camera, no video recording, no real bluetooth support, etc.). However, it wasn’t long until I no longer felt this way.
First there was the fucking NDA that created an inhospitable environment around iPhone-development and made it impossible to build any kind of community around it. Apple finally made good on that one but it took way too long and that they had that crap in place to start with is inexcusable anyway. What were they thinking?
Secondly, and this is a big problem that still remains, there’s the whole fiasco with the approval process to get your apps to the AppStore. Since Apple has the final say-so on what gets published on the AppStore and there is no other way to get apps on a non-hacked iPhone if they deny your application to publish your app on the AppStore you’re shit out of luck.
Now that’s bad enough, but what makes it even worse is that there seems to be no clear guidelines as to what gets approved and what doesn’t. Some apps have been denied while other apps with almost the same functionality have been approved. Is there an official way to appeal a denial? I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so.
One app in particular stirred up a lot of attention from the blogosphere and the internet in general, the NIN-app, published by the band Nine Inch Nails. The whole debacle has been well publicized elsewhere so I’ll not get into it in detail but basically the app was first approved but then just a short while later the developers released an update which was denied into the AppStore, which in turn, if I’m not mistaken, made the app unavailable on the AppStore. The reason for this was that you could apparently access some son (via streaming I believe) that had “offensive lyrics” or something like that through the app. OMG! There’s swear words on the internet? Meanwhile you can buy a million gangsta-rap songs on iTunes that contain a multitude of fucks, motherfuckers, “kill whitey”, bitch and other “offensive” things as part of their lyrics. But I guess that’s OK since those songs supply Apple with steady revenue.
Anyway, after a couple of days of uproar on the web by thousands of Nine Inch Nails-fans the app was re-evaluated and finally approved. Now what if this app hadn’t been published by a successfull rockgroup with a very solid and borderline rabid fanbase? Apple themselves have bragged about how awesome the AppStore is because it has turned one man software development companies into successfull businessess and enabled developers to live the dream of being their own boss and still make a solid living. What if an app developed by one of those companies was rejected for some obscure and/or stupid reason thus strangulating their cash flow completely? That could mean disaster and bankruptcy in a worst case scenario and how do we know this hasn’t happened already to some poor unfortunate developer?
Now another app has been rejected for the most moronic reason. As reported by Torrentfreak.com a remote control app for the popular cross-platform BitTorrent-client Transmission has been rejected because according to Apple “this category of applications is often used for the purpose of infringing third party rights”. That is such total and utter bullshit! You’d think that a company that actually makes software would know better than to damnify an entire class of technology because it “could be used to do wrong”. Hey, let’s ban Safari then because using any web browser you can easily find illegal stuff on the internet and download it and you could also use it to access the web-GUI for Transmission! Let’s ban cars because they can be used as getaway-vehicles in bank robberies. BitTorrent in itself is just a protocol and it’s used for lots of legitimate things. Banning applications based on them using a specific kind of technology is stupid beyond belief.
Just a couple of weeks ago, days before the whole Nine Inch Nails-thing got started, I was seriously contemplating getting an iPhone since the prices have now dropped to a reasonable level and the amount of good apps appeared to make it a good choice for a new cellphone, which I am very much in need of. I was also looking at the Android-phone, the G1, and thinking it may also be a good alternative. I do however own an iPod touch which I love. It really is an awesome device which I use everyday. But if I could have that plus a great cellphone in the same device that would be very nice. For this reason I may never completely be able to write off the iPhone as a candidate for a future cellphone.
However, with all of the crap that’s been going on around the AppStore lately I’m really not considering an iPhone anymore. So now I’m basically holding out for the next generation of Android-phones. The Android-software is just as good as the iPhone-software, maybe not as sexy and Apple-ish but I can live with that, and most of all it is based on open source and a platform not encumbered by the problems discussed in this post. So you could say that you lost me again Apple, and for such stupid reasons.
What Apple should do is let people install whatever the hell they want on their phones. If I bought the phone and paid for it I should be allowed to do whatever I want with it. If I want to install an application that floods my screen with random swear words who are they to decide that isn’t appropriate? If I want to use an iPhone to monitor my torrent-downloads that’s none of their business. If I’m doing something illegal that’s what we have law enforcement for. Basically, butt out of your customers’ business Cupertinoites.
Naturally, they should keep the AppStore because it is great to have a source for apps that Apple vouches for so to speak. But if I wanna take a risk and install something that Apple doesn’t deem worthy of publishing in the AppStore I should still be able to do that. This would benefit everybody involved, developers, iPhone-owners and Apple themselves, since it would make the iPhone an even more appealing platform.
But until radical changes are made I’m most likely to go Android for my next cellphone. The future will tell.