July 31, 2009

Prisoner in a Fortune Cookie Factory

There’s an old Batman comic where Batman and Robin go for dinner and (I think) Robin receives a fortune cookie which says, “Help, I’m being held prisoner in a Chinese fortune cookie factory!”. While this is apparently a fairly well-known gag, Batman and Robin investigate (I forget why) and discover that in this case, that the message was actually true.

I’m beginning to wonder if the Apple app store reviewers are like these fortune cookie factory prisoners :)

I’ve blogged before about my recent troubles in getting my iPhone apps approved. That was over three weeks ago. Since then, I’ve had exactly three applications approved and all of them were updates. None of my new applications, and the list at the moment stands at five, have been approved since then. I’ve asked several times for updates from Apple but all in vain. All I’ve received has been the standard canned responses.

Last night, or early today in the morning at 4:30am, it appears that Apple called me. Of course, being asleep at the time, I never got the phone call :) They did leave a message but since nobody here in Sri Lanka ever leaves a message on the answering machine (don’t ask me why – I have no idea :p), I rarely check to see if we have any messages. By a fluke I happened to notice that we had a new message around 2:30pm.

So what did the message say? They said that, “Your app’s marketing text contains pricing information. Please remove the pricing information from the text to avoid confusing potential customers.” (Please note, I’m paraphrasing here. But the gist of the message was that.) Now when we originally went into this holding pattern, that was what I’d been told by Apple and I thought I had complied. So I was puzzled as to what was going on.

So I went through my app all over again and checked all the text. Nope, no pricing information there! Then a sneaking suspicion dawned on me. My app has links (to get more information) which take the user to my own iPhone apps site. Could it be that they were talking about that? I checked and sure enough, my site does contain pricing information and it displays in an in-app browser view. Could it be that Apple reviewers were this clueless – especially given that my site has a totally different look from the in-app stuff? Perhaps they were.

I really didn’t want to go back and forth arguing about how this wasn’t in-app content and how the pricing information was on my own site, where Apple shouldn’t be able to dictate terms to me. But I didn’t want further delays and so I simply removed the link to my product pages and told Apple that I had done so.

But what has all this got to do with a fortune cookie factory prisoner? I’m getting to that :) This whole set of exchanges makes me wonder why Apple couldn’t have let me know this via e-mail three weeks ago. If they’d simply said you have pricing information in your app and included a screenshot to show that they were actually talking about my site, then I would have fixed things at that point. So why did they wait three weeks to make me a call in the middle of the night?

Is it perhaps possible that the Apple app reviewers are deliberately isolated from the developers and they are not allowed any interaction with the developers? Maybe, like the prisoners of a fortune cookie factory, their means of communicating with the outside world is very limited? Perhaps they have a review submission system where they can only check boxes for accepted or rejected and a dropdown which generates a canned text response?

Yes, that’s very fanciful I know :) But that’s the image that comes across my mind. Of these poor, pitiful (and gagged) reviewers toiling away at reviewing apps but being effectively muzzled by the Apple powers that be. If anything more than a canned response is required, then they have to go through special channels, which requires weeks, and results in a direct phone call to the developer by a trained specialist who knows how to keep his/her mouth shut about anything other than what strictly relates to the matter at hand.

Too paranoid? Too imaginative? Perhaps so. Perhaps not. Since I’m not privy to how Apple runs their review department, I guess I’ll never know :) But in the meantime, I’ll wait again hoping that my five poor apps will finally see the light of day (or at least get released to the app store) some day soon …

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Posted by Fahim at 5:40 pm  |  No Comments

Tweets for 2009-07-31

  • Check out the free fitness application developed for the iPhone by my friend, Bruce :) It's called 12 Week Fitness Lite – http://is.gd/1VkFo #
  • Still no approval for five of my iPhone apps. And I get the same canned response about "unexpected delays" when I ask them what's going on. #
  • Oh, enough with the "Fed up, Mac developer quits iPhone" tweets! We're fed up with that too! In fact, I'm fed up with Apple. Period. #
  • Apparently the prefix "caco" comes from the Indo-European root "kakka/kaka" meaning "to defecate". Kids say "kakka" – crap's global folks :) #
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July 27, 2009

Tweets for 2009-07-27

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July 26, 2009

Tweets for 2009-07-26

  • This is bad …. very, very bad … the latest ThunderBird beta keeps crashing on me every time I start it. It worked fine yesterday :( #
  • OK, transferring to a new profile fixed the Thunderbird 3b3 issues but I'm annoyed at the frequent TB issues. Maybe PostBox is the way to go #
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July 25, 2009

Tweets for 2009-07-25

  • An update to my iPhone app Sir Insult-a-lot (http://is.gd/1L8Q8) was approved today. But the free version is still pending Apple approval :( #
  • I was just told that my coding abilities are unable to cope with creating a simple iPhone to-do app. I am shamed! Must commit hara-kiri 😀 #
  • I have to give props to the folks at Unity for their responsiveness :) I'm testing out their engine to check out iPhone 3D development. #
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July 23, 2009

Tweets for 2009-07-23

  • I find it funny when people say that their favourite author, Isaac Asimov, lived in Sri Lanka. It wasn't Asimov, but Clarke. How favourite? #
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July 22, 2009

Tweets for 2009-07-22

  • I'm beginning to dislike the people who want to start "viral" campaigns about their iPhone apps by doing the "Apple did this to me!" bit. #
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July 21, 2009

Will Mobile Androids Eat Blackberries off Their Palm?

When it comes to mobile development, there are a lot of platform choices available to developers – iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Palm Pre, Symbian, Windows Mobile … and given how many mobile platforms are out there, I might even have missed some :) As a consumer, deciding what you want is simple enough – buy the applications for the platform that you use. But for a developer, the choice is a more complicated one. And I’m not sure that there are enough resources out there which cover all the relevant/important factors.

If you do a search, you’ll find that most articles are targeted towards a US audience – they talk of the mobile carrier (AT&T vs. Sprint vs. T-Mobile) or the number of handsets available for each carrier or of GSM vs. CDMA when it comes to carrier. But they leave out things like: are developers outside the US even able to get into the developer program for a specific platform? Sure, most of the consumers for mobile applications probably come from the US but developers are global. Whether you are in the US, Germany, Sudan, India, Sri Lanka, or Australia, a developer is a developer. We are a breed that likes to tinker, to experiment, to write code on platforms we haven’t explored before. So, shouldn’t somebody be considering the non-US developers as well?

Take Android, for instance. It might be hyped as the best thing since the immaculate birth of the iPhone, but for developers, as far as I can tell, Android is a closed shop – only those who can sign up for Google Checkout can get on the Android developer bandwagon and that lets out anybody who is not in the US or UK. At least, that’s what Google Checkout told me when I tried to sign up for one of their “merchant” accounts (or whatever it is that Google calls a Checkout account that is used to sell goods or services). Now I might be wrong since I haven’t done enough checking into this but the whole “US and UK” only thing puts a damper on my enthusiasm for Android development.

The iPhone on the other hand provides a developer program that you can sign up for quite easily. However, the market has been flooded with a plethora of useless apps coded in a matter of days (if not hours). Apple seems to have no real love for the developers developing for their platform, nor any desire to address any of their frequently voiced grievances. For the moment, Apple appears to be content to sit back on their laurels and play “Lord of Monopoly” with the poor deluded souls that are in search of the pot of gold at the end of the iTunes Store rainbow. So sure, you can get on the iPhone platform quite easily, but getting your app on the app store, (and making any real money) might be harder.

For some of the others, like BlackBerry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile, the whole app store concept is something that they came up with after the success of Apple’s own app store. Some are already in operation, others are planned or just getting started. However, they had other distribution mechanisms before that. So it’s not so bad for the developer in terms of how they distribute and sell their apps. Of course, again for non-US/European developers, it would be easier to have a central marketplace or store which sells their app for them and sends them the money. PayPal isn’t everywhere nor is accepting online payment as easy for developers in the rest of the world. Heck, I can’t get payment in any form except for a bank transfer over here!

So for most of us, a centralized app store which does all the e-commerce stuff is still a good idea. But of course, as I mentioned above, the playing field is never level and, ironically, if you’re not in the US, you’re usually shut out. And US developers are the one’s who least need these mechanisms since they can at least receive online payments via PayPal quite easily :)

But unfortunately, that’s how it is at the moment. There are those of us who would like to develop for other platforms besides the iPhone, which is becoming rather tiresome in their arbitrary (and often self-contradictory) decisions regarding what is allowed and what’s not on their app store. I wish some of the other platforms would get their act together and allow global access to their individual marketplaces as Apple does. This would at least give some of us more options and perhaps even make Apple re-consider how they administer their own app store and review apps. But for the time being, global developer choice is still a dream ….

July 20, 2009

Tweets for 2009-07-20

  • Apple has no trouble approving a retarded and nihilistic iPhone app like "Zombie School" but five of my apps (utilities) are in limbo? #
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Posted by Fahim at 1:00 pm  |  No Comments

July 19, 2009

Tweets for 2009-07-19

  • Finally had two of my seven apps in the iPhone app review queue were approved. The rest? Apparently they have "unexpected delays"! #
  • People are selling ADC slots to get developer firmware? Pay $99 and then make about $500 back with 100 slots at $5 each? Is that even legal? #
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