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Business, Innovation, Technology, Society
Apple Lifts the Curtain on App Store Approvals
BY JENNA WORTHAM AUGUST 21, 2009 6:04 PM
On Friday, Apple, along with AT&T and Google, filed responses to the Federal Communications Commission‘s inquiry into Apple’s rejection of an iPhone application developed by Google.
Apple’s letter said that “contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it.” Google’s telephony application, along with several third-party applications that made use of Google Voice, were rejected or not included in the App Store because they interfere with the iPhone’s “core mobile telephone functionality” — specifically, the visual voicemail feature of the device that allows iPhone owners to select which messages they want to listen to or delete.
The company also said the Google Voice application disrupted the iPhone’s text-messaging feature and address book. “These factors present several new issues and questions to us that we are still pondering at this time,” the company said in a release.
But aside from trying to answer the F.C.C.’s questions, Apple’s response also provided a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the company, specifically the review process that determines which iPhone applications are ushered onto its digital shelves and which ones are cast aside.
The frustrations felt by application developers as well as iPhone owners as a result of Apple’s lengthy and often opaque approval process have been well-documented on the Web and have somewhat dimmed the halo that has encircled the iPhone since it first became a popular device and lucrative platform for outside developers. I’ve also reported on iPhone app developers who seek out unsanctioned third-party storefronts as a way to get their software out quickly and on their own terms.
Friday’s release shed some light on the otherwise mysterious process.
For example, Apple receives 8,500 new applications and updates to applications each week. The company employs a team of 40 full-time trained reviewers, and each application is independently evaluated by two separate reviewers before getting a green light. The company said that 95 percent of iPhone applications are approved within 14 days of being submitted.
The company also reiterated the issues that could result in a rejection from its mobile application store: privacy, security vulnerabilities like software bugs, instabilities that might lead to program crashes and the use of unauthorized protocols.
It’s not much information, but nevertheless it is an unusual peek behind the company’s curtain.
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J E Hatch August 21, 2009 · 6:37 pm
I wonder how much they pay the app reviewers? Doing 8,500 apps and updates a week must be tough.
JD August 21, 2009 · 6:39 pm
“The company also reiterated the issues that the company screens for, which could result in a rejection from its mobile application store: Privacy, security vulnerabilities such as software bugs, instabilities that might lead to program crashes and the use of unauthorized protocols.”
It’s important to note that, while Apple may be claiming these are the issues, they are not the issues that preventing Google Voice from being approved.
Also, the other apps using Google Voice were pulled from the app store, that sure looks like rejection, even if Apple wants to now be revisionist and pretend they were only just thinking about it. I think a more honest reading is that they want to deflect some ire, especially from the FCC, are wondering if they will need to make a retraction, and want to be able to pretend they never decided in the first place so changing their mind doesn’t seem so arbitrary.
Walter G August 21, 2009 · 6:41 pm
“have somewhat dimmed the halo that has encircled the iPhone since it first became a popular device and lucrative platform for outside developers.”
That may be the understatement of the year. That halo has all but extinguished. An angelic metaphor only still clung to by the Tango drinkers. A pitchfork for the rest of us not living in la-la land.
tom August 21, 2009 · 6:48 pm
i feel dumber now than i did before… this isn’t much of a peek, and i hope the FCC starts delving deeper into a ridiculous process…
0megapart!cle August 21, 2009 · 6:50 pm
According to the main NYTimes story on the matter, and all published information up to this point, Google Voice most certainly does not “interfere” or “disrupt” any iPhone functionality. That is not Apple’s argument at all. Their argument, as hard to believe as it is, is that Google Voice replicated some of these functions within the app, and would therefore result in consumer confusion.
cgpublic August 21, 2009 · 7:17 pm
After reading the actual statement submitted to the FCC and prominently posted on their website (unlike AT&T and Google), it appears that Apple’s detractors (by and large funded by Google) are way off the mark. Google seeks to change the paradigm and end both the telecom and iPhone stranglehold by offering free calls and texting to consumers and in return track your every call and note every contact to feed their insatiable thirst for data. Vampires.
Chris August 21, 2009 · 7:39 pm
To me, Google is the one trying to impose something into a secure, reliable and famous Apple system.
So many people think Google doesnt do anything wrong, well there you have, Google sucks as most companies.
I support Apple checking every app before, so i can rest assured there arent virus or any malware in my iPhone.
Toy Needle August 21, 2009 · 7:47 pm
It’s an unusual peek “behind” the company’s curtain. One looks under a dress, not a curtain. Cheeky monkey.
Hugh Loebner August 21, 2009 · 8:09 pm
With regard to comment #6 cgpublic: I don’t understand why you call google “vampires.” It seems to me that this is a quid pro quo; google gets the info, and you get free calls and a rather sophisticated phone service. No body is putting a gun to your head to use the service.
Actually, I got a wonderful number xxx-EGO-TRIP (I’ll keep the exchange confidential only google and my friends know.) ;-)
Steve Jobs Akbar August 21, 2009 · 8:15 pm
It’s all a vast Google conspiracy, isn’t it? How dare Google offer free services in exchange for exposing you to advertising. They should follow the Apple model of gouging customers for OS updates. I wonder if Apple sells industrially-designed iTinfoil hats.
mouser August 21, 2009 · 8:25 pm
Very disingenuous of Apple.
I have used an app (non Google obviously) for some time now that lets me text for free and it works very well. There are other texting apps as well. There are also VOIP apps, so what Apple is doing with Google is aimed very specifically.
Google may be evil but choice is nice, and consumers will seek out other devices if they can’t have it. Apple wants to control competition but they are shooting themselves in the foot. Apple is also an evil vampire. People want to be able to choose their monster.
cgpublic August 21, 2009 · 9:21 pm
The ignorance of the general public is pretty depressing, as evidenced by the fact that many of the posters above haven’t even bothered reading Apple’s statement in response to the FCC. For the uninformed, Apple states that Google Voice “replaces Apple’s Visual Voicemail by routing calls through a separate Google Voice telephone number…” and “…SMS text messages are managed through the Google hub—replacing the iPhone’s text messaging feature…” plus “…iPhone user’s entire Contacts database is transferred to Google’s servers, and we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways.”
I guess that the posters above are OK with that along as you can call for free as Google sucks out every byte of call, contact, text, location data without your consent.
JonB August 21, 2009 · 9:43 pm
So why did Apple pull VoiceCentral from their App Store as well? After being approved, Apple pulled it and claimed it had features that duplicated those already on the iPhone. Google Voice was used by Voice Central – so that “excuse” isn’t the same as Google Voice disrupting the functionality of the iPhone. Sounds like a set of poorly constructed lies that don’t join together very well.
But the FCC might just fall for that. Just like the Apple claim that iPhones shouldn’t be able to be legally jail broken because it would allow hackers to bring down the cell network.
Bruce August 21, 2009 · 9:50 pm
Too many apple haters out there. They make great products and guard their secrets. Many other great companies might still be around today had they valued their intellectual property the same way. Google is potentially great company but you essentially sell your soul to use their product.
MCF August 21, 2009 · 9:56 pm
“we are still pondering at this time”
What a sad cop-out! I adore Apple’s products, but c’mon — we’re not idiots.
Please please please, Apple, don’t become Microsoft ca. 1994.
You deserve better, so do we.
AdamC August 21, 2009 · 10:10 pm
Goog the new evil?
Their intentions are clear and actions very similar to what an evil person will be doing – bringing disruption and distrust so that they can gain the most.
To those who feel they can gain the most because of goog’s action then they don’t know what will hit them ultimately i.e. surrendering all privacy to goog because everything they do will be cached.
Good luck.
Boyd Hobbs August 21, 2009 · 11:57 pm
I can understand Apple’s side though. They didn’t have to make apps available for development, but they did… why? so that they could make other money off the iPhone and thus sell it for cheaper to more people.
But the problem is in the name it’s called the App “Store” implying it is free market, but it is not. For one, we have all entered a contract (thus leaving the free market behind). And secondly, it is how Apple makes its money.
But Google is challenging Apple on their own device in their own market. Sure, if we all payed for our devices in full ($600), but you and I both signed it.
FreeRange August 21, 2009 · 11:58 pm
Please give me a break. It is absolutely a very very very very small minority of iPhone users that have any complaints about this issue. The OVERWHELMING majority of users want a safe and secure environment on our iPhones, not the disasters that are Windows for example. And especially if Google Voice interferes with and changes the user interface, it should not be allowed! This is not the google phone, it is the apple iPhone. Let them screw with Android, but don’t screw with my iPhone. These posts above are filled with misinformation (must be some of the astroturfers here) – one numbnuts says Apple “over charges for OS updates” – excuse me? This article is not about Microsoft. Apple has ALWAYS been extremely reasonable about updates. And another thinks everything should be free – what a great business model! We can then all prosper? Duh. And to omegaparticle – if GV in fact changes the way people interact with their visual voice mail, or how they make calls, it does in fact screw with the user interface. Apple, keep on doing what you’re doing. You are doing a great job!
TG August 22, 2009 · 12:22 am
The fact is both of these companies have much to hide, and they’re beginning to be exposed. I suppose they’re not as bad as M$ , but it’s close.
Barry August 22, 2009 · 1:10 am
Although a few developers and some iphone using open source geeks complain about the approval process, most iPhone users really don’t care much, if at all. There are still 50k or so apps available and quite a number are pretty useful. I agree that people should quit idolizing google – even if it gives you software for “free”, it is still a successful business that gets something from you. And the concern about Google isn’t a simple “I trade my info for free software as personal choice” – Google is one of the biggest threats to personal and consumer privacy in a broad public way – because people are so lulled into getting stuff supposedly free. And Google’s behavior in China has been despicable re human rights and freedom.
joe August 22, 2009 · 2:19 am
comment #11: You have your choices, buy a another phone not made my Apple! Stop whining! Apple is NOT obligated to offer service to make Google and you happy. I and most of ipHone users are happy with Apples’ approach. take your stupid google app somewhere else and see how many people follow you. No one is forcing you to use iPhone.
D. Smith August 22, 2009 · 2:46 am
Go to the Apple website (under Hot News) and read the full text of their reply to the FCC. While, as stated above, “frustrations felt by application developers as well as iPhone owners as a result of Apple’s lengthy and often opaque approval process have been well-documented on the Web,” this does not constitute a valid statistical study. What has not been documented at all on the web or elsewhere is that Apple actually helps developers to debug submitted Apps so that they can be approved. But of course this story line is not as provocative as one about a “mysterious process” that just happens to insure that the iPhone is not degraded by a lot of buggy Apps. How could there be 65,000 Apps on iTunes with a large fraction of the App developers unhappy about having a business opportunity that didn’t exist two years ago? Where else can a software developer sell a product to a worldwide audience with essentially zero costs for marketing and distribution?
Nabendu sinha August 22, 2009 · 6:43 am
My First App: 6L Challenge was approved within 10 days of submission.
The Lite version of it 6L Challenge Lite were rejected twice due to MJ copyright concerns. Once I removed those contents
Apple approved my app within 12 days.
This App is free!
jsoard August 22, 2009 · 8:18 am
As for the Apple review process, I’ve bought several apps that clearly create “program crashes and [sic] use … unauthorized protocols” that Apple has been more than willing to sell, but then disclaim at refund time.
Any review process is an open invitation for many agendas.
Policemen rarely get parking tickets.
Laverticus Jones August 22, 2009 · 10:05 am
The interesting point is that Apple receives 8,500 new applications per week and has a dedicated team of 40 people to review the apps. That averages to each reviewer analyzing 42.5 applications per day, or one every 12 minutes. 12 Minutes is hardly enough time to catch hidden spyware capabilities or other malicious code. That is all the more reason that application stores dramatically increase the threat of viruses, spyware, trojans, etc.
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