Apple’s (AAPL) new iPhone apps are very cool — and in many cases, even useful. But some are buggy. And because of Apple’s super-tight control over app distribution — and some missing features for coders — developers are having a tougher time than they’d like figuring out what the problems are and fixing them.
So they’re starting to make some noise. Craig Hockenberry, who created Twitterrific for the Mac and iPhone, outlines the problems in a blog post:
- We’re hearing about problems with our app.
- It’s hard to figure out what the problems are, because the “crash reports” Apple provides are hard to understand and don’t include enough information.
- It’s hard to test out bug fixes. [If this was conventional software, we’d release patches and builds to beta testers and get feedback from them.] But with the iPhone, we can only fix the problems by releasing new software to everyone, via the App Store — without knowing if we’ve really fixed it. “It’s the developer equivalent of playing Russian roulette.”
- Did we mention we love the iPhone platform!
And from another developer who wants to remain anonymous:
- Apple is taking too long to approve app updates for the store — even minor changes.
- This puts developers in a tough spot: If consumers give apps bad reviews because of a fixable bug, they’ll have a hard time reclaiming their reputations.
Why does this matter? Because the success of Apple’s App Store — and, bigger picture, the iPhone as a mobile platform — is predicated on two things: Apps that don’t suck, and a large, happy stable of coders.
If Apple makes it hard for developers to test and fix their apps, they’ll be less willing to work on iPhone apps. Which is bad news for everyone — especially Apple. But it’s not an easy fix: Either Apple is going to have to loosen up control of its platform, or it’s going to have to provide developers with some kind of extensive beta testing environment, where they can at least road-test their apps.
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