Many things in application development can be left to interpretation, but developers need the best interpretation of what Apple wants in its App Store before developing a killer app. In the seven months since launching the App Store, Apple has accepted hundreds of thousands of applications, but it has also doled out its share of rejections.
Some of the better-known rejections include: I Am Rich, Pull My Finger, Podcaster and the most recent South Park App. While I Am Rich did nothing other than to show the user could afford to pay $999.99 and Podcaster competed with Apple's Podcast section of iTunes, the flatulent Pull My Finger and South Park were considered offensive.
"After a couple of attempts to get the application approved, we are sad to say that our app has been rejected," said South Park Studios on its Web site. Apple said the content was "potentially offensive," according to South Park Studios. But Apple said standards for content will evolve as lyrics did on the iTunes Store.
iPhone developers can make a good profit, as Apple offers developers 70 percent of revenues from sales and keeps 30 percent. With more than 20,000 third-party applications available for the iPhone and iPod touch and 500 million downloads, a lot of revenue has been generated.
Apple stands to lose nothing, while developers could lose money, time and effort. But that hasn't stopped many developers from trying to get their applications approved.
"Obviously Apple is a private company and can set up their sandbox the way they want to," said Glenn Howes, a Mac developer and owner of Generally Useful Software in California. "From a developer's point of view I hear stories of where people spend a lot of time and they file the app and apple looks at it for months and rejects it."
Not only vulgar and offensive apps are rejected. Apple also rejects applications that may duplicate its functionality.
"Let's say I was writing a SMS messaging app and made it better than Apple's SMS messaging app. They can reject it and I could have spent two months designing a product that was not vulgar in any way -- I'd be really upset, and that seems incredibly unfair," Howes said.
Howes recently submitted Lullabies, which was reviewed by Apple for a few days and rejected.
"The basic design had been that a user would choose a soothing animation/song and that animation would play to completion, and only at that point the user could choose to replay the song, or go back to pick another," Howes said. "Apple didn't like that. The reviewer wanted a mechanism to go directly back to the root view without waiting. Otherwise I was in violation of interface guidelines."
Howes modified the Lullabies app and it was accepted. "Apple is Apple and they keep things close to the vest," Howes said.
Making It Clear
While some developers attempt to get applications accepted that are just outright vulgar and useless knowing they will be rejected, others say clearer guidelines are needed.
"There really should be more of a feeling where I can get an okay beforehand, like with a business plan, on what is acceptable and not acceptable," Howes said. "Right now it's not clear to me."
One thing, however, is clear. Apple needs to put more emphasis and concentration on quality of applications. For every good app, there can be many bad ones, developers say.
"I don't mind that others are vulgar and that others download vulgarity. I do mind competing with others filling the App Store with junk," Howes said. "The App Store should have high-quality, well-thought-out niche programs and Apple should use its power to keep junk out."