As we’ve said before, Apple’s iPhone app store is Apple’s app store, which means it can block any app it wants for any reason it wants. That’s the deal, and developers knew that from the beginning.
But Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone app vetting strategy — a black box, with little to no communication with developers — continues to reinforce the need for a better set of guidelines, a better feedback loop, and some kind of appeals court.
The latest example: A podcast-downloading app called Podcaster that its developers submitted to the App Store on August 18. Almost a month later, they got word that their app was being rejected. From their blog:
Apple Rep says: Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes.
That’s right folks, it duplicates the functionality of the desktop version of iTunes.
Therefore, it was denied from sale in the app store. Although my app does allow you to listen to podcasts (like iTunes), it also allows you to download them directly to device and that is something Apple does not offer.
…Apple had nothing in the terms prohibiting developers from duplicating features currently available on desktop application. I followed all the guidelines and made sure everything is in the correct place. Yet Apple denies me because I allow users to download podcasts just like iTunes.
Admittedly, we don’t know the details, or if this is even true. But for argument’s sake, let’s take their word for it.
As the Podcaster developers point out, several apps already exist in the App Store — which Apple approved — that let you download/listen to podcasts, like “Mobility Today.” And several apps also exist that duplicate the functionality of other Apple widgets, like myriad note pad apps, etc.
While Apple’s decision to block Podcaster is a bit confusing — the app seems harmless, and actually useful to us — we can see why the company might deny an app like Podcaster, which sort-of competes with one of its signature products. (If you’re working on a jukebox app called uTunes, we recommend you find something else to do with your spare time.)
But moves like this aren’t going to win Apple any fans. The guidelines for acceptance into Apple’s store aren’t clear, the approval process is long and opaque, and it seems to us that there’s no formal appeals process to get Apple to change its mind.
Not something we’d be comfortable with if we were about to invest a lot of time and money into building anything for Apple’s platform.
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