5 App Store Issues That Need To Be Fixed

On February 3, 2011

Ben Harvell is a freelance writer and former editor of iCreate magazine. He now writes for a wide range of international technology magazines and websites including Macworld and Mac Format. He has written several books on consumer technology and blogs at benharvell.com. Ben covered the launch of the iPhone in 2007 and has been closely associated with the device and it’s rivals ever since. He has commissioned his own apps and reviews App Store content on a regular basis. He’s also rather obsessed with Twitter.

Paying for and downloading an iOS app is an absolute breeze. Installing and running an app provides the same clean experience. So why is everything else to do with Apple’s software vending machine such a godawful pain to use?

I write this post from the perspective of an app reviewer and consumer but I’ve also had my run-ins with the developer side as well. I’ve also listened to the App Store moans of developers themselves. Together, we can’t all be wrong. Here are five of my biggest peeves regarding the App Store that I hope Apple will one day put right.

App approval not censorship
Hugh Hefner is having to put his faith in those who really do just buy Playboy “for the articles” in order to sell content on the App Store. It seems Apple has a problem with nudity. Yeah, that’s coming from the same company that thinks of Microsoft as “square”. At the same time, someone can get rich off the back of an unendorsed Angry Birds “guide” app or one that reproduces the sound of certain bodily functions. Where’s the quality control there? If apps can have parental guidance ratings, as many that include profanity or violence do, why can’t there be an adult rating for “tasteful” shots of naked chicks? The APProval process has been covered before but the nannying we continue to see is just plain annoying. Reject apps based on software issues, don’t censor content.

Search and discovery
Searching is clumsy in both iTunes and on an iOS device and relies heavily on accuracy in order to find what you’re after. Then there’s the annoyance of the “featured” and “pick” sections on the App Store front page that rarely offer me apps I’m interested in trying. Categories are not conducive to casual browsing and the charts don’t offer much better. Top Paid Apps? Not necessarily. Did you know that apps that have been free since launch and then become “paid” suddenly rank highly on the Top Paid Apps section based on paid AND free downloads. That’s a wonky algorithm if ever I’ve seen one.

Reviews and ratings
Don’t even get me started on the review system. Some moron downloads an app without fully reading the description and then (with the greatest of ease) can submit a one star review based purely on his incompetence. Even worse, they download the app and, despite multiple warnings, don’t restart their device which leads to crashes. “This app sux”, “Not wurth da muney”, “Wont work. Plz fix”. Not only does this often create copycat reviews from other blind idiots but it brings down the average rating of an app that, for the moderately intelligent user, was worthy of a higher score. Ridiculous. At least now you have to have actually bought an app in order to add a review.

Promo codes and international App Stores
Here’s where things get really ugly for me. I receive my fair share of promo codes from developers looking for a review and, on occasion, an app is only available in the US store. So I download a bunch of apps, some that I pay for, some through my US account and some through the account associated with the site/magazine I’m writing for. Try syncing and updating with more than one account and you’re in for a whole lot of password-entering fun. Not to mention sporadic jumps beteeen the iTunes music and app stores when using iOS. My Mail client lets me quickly pick which account to use, why can’t iTunes?!  Then there’s the limited number of promo codes Apple allows developers to use. What’s up with that? Why shouldn’t a developer give away as many free copies of their software as they wish for marketing purposes? Oh yes, Apple doesn’t get its 30% cut that way…

App “promotion”
“Make an iOS app and we’ll do the promotion for you.” That’s effectively what Apple said when it launched the store and SDK but, in truth, real promotion is only offered to a handful of “featured” apps that Apple staff seem to like at that particular time or, heaven forbid, have been paid to like*. For every one of these “featured” applications there are tens if not hundreds of apps that provide the same functions but go without recognition. Even worse, the same “featured” apps appear in TV commercials too. Epic promotion but only for those deemed worthy or with deep enough pockets*.

*I have no actual proof that developers can pay for better placement on the App Store but have heard of it too many times for it not to be true, at least in part.