Apple's iPhone App Store Approvals a Necessary Evil

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The Apple App Store has been the subject of debate. Developers complain about the hoops they have to jump through to get through the approval process, while Apple defends the process and claims there is nothing wrong with the App Store. As with most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Last week one of Facebook's lead developers for the iPhone app, Joe Hewitt, left the project to work on other things, claiming to be "philosophically opposed" to having Apple control which applications are allowed to run on the iPhone platform. Hewitt abhors the gatekeeper mentality and says the App Store approval process "sets a horrible precedent".

Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, defended the App Store in a recent interview, though. Schiller says that the App Store is somewhat a victim of its own success. With over 10,000 new apps submitted each week, sometimes apps fall through the cracks.

I suppose that explains how something like the controversial shaken baby 'game' gets approved, or why there are 50 or so different apps that make fart noises, while others like the Google Voice app are rejected--or delayed indefinitely. Still, it is also understandable that the FCC is looking into the business practices behind the Apple App Store approval process.

I am not a fan of how tightly Apple controls every aspect of its world, but I have to say that I understand the need for a gatekeeper in this case. Apple has to ensure that the apps actually function properly and don't break other features of the iPhone, as well as ensuring that the apps don't violate any trademarks or copyrights, or violate any laws.

With a platform that is used around the world, just validating that it is legal in every region and jurisdiction is a pretty massive undertaking. Other platforms have approval processes as well. The Microsoft app store has only 800 out of a possible 18,000 apps available because the apps have to pass stringent testing to get approved. As controlling as the App Store approval process may seem, though, it's a necessary evil.

Dealing with the Apple App Store, and its approval process, is also a necessary evil if you are a developer. The iPhone is a hugely popular platform and for pretty much anything you could want to do there is an app for that. At this point, how you could you *not* make an app for that?

That doesn't imply, though, that developers are tied to the iPhone platform. Developing for additional platforms like Android and Windows Mobile isn't a betrayal of iPhone loyalty, its just good business. Like writing software with versions for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, developing for multiple platforms increases exposure and expands the potential market.

Are there issues with the Apple App Store? Yes, and no. Nothing that can't be explained by the overwhelming number of apps that Apple has to test and approve. There have been some questionable approvals and shady rejections, but overall Apple is doing something right because every other mobile operating system platform wishes they had an app for that and wants to be the Apple App Store when they grow up.

Tony Bradley tweets as @PCSecurityNews, and can be contacted at his Facebook page.

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