Apple may be feeling the Android heat. The company has changed the way it deals with iPhone app developers letting them now keep closer tabs on how their software is proceeding through Apple's strict App Store review process. Many see the move as yet another step by Apple to keep app store developers from defecting to competing mobile platforms - namely Android.
As first reported in Wired this week, a software developer can now see precisely when an app is "Ready for Review," "In Review," and "Ready for Sale." Before that, developers only got vague status bulletins from Apple giving the "average wait time" around finding out whether or not Apple has okayed an app.
Software developers began complaining loudly about Apple's review policies late last year, after Apple offered a hodgepodge of reasons for banning apps ranging from the Murderdrome comic book to the "Pull My Finger" fart joke app and Alex Sokirynsky's "Podcaster" app.
Meanwhile, many mobile developers have started to expand their mobile platform horizons by creating apps not just for iPhones but myriad other phone environments, including Android, RIM, Palm's Pre, and Microsoft's Windows Mobile.
To help pacify developers, Apple recently added a new in-app feature that lets users of free iPhone apps upgrade to expanded capabilities from directly inside the apps, so that a visit to the App Store is no longer needed
At the same time, fewer complaints have been emerging lately about applications getting arbitrarily rejected from the App Store.
But Apple's tops-down App Store policies again spurred confusion in late October, when Apple suddenly restored a 3G TV app formerly banned from its online store.
The iPhone still has a lot more applications for its users than any other mobile platform, with more than 100,000 applications available in Apple's App Store in comparison to "10,000-plus" on Google's Android Market, for instance.
Apple's move to improve communications should go a long way toward keeping developers in the iPhone fold, even though developers really still have no way of knowing in advance whether or not their software will make it into the App Store.