No Sh!t Allowed in the App Store? Oh Please!

Everyone’s entire iPhone experience is controlled by Apple. Ditto for iPad owners.

Good thing Apple is never mistaken about what a user wants.  I am awed by Apple’s ability to know not only what I want to do today, but whatever I might want to do in the future.

Steve Jobs Doesn’t Want Sh!t In His App Store, And Neither Do I
That’s the title of a blog post I saw go by recently. The author is a UI guy, and goes out of his way to praise Apple for their commitment to high-quality UIs, trotting out the old “Mac-like” concept as a precursor for good. To wit:

Steve Jobs wants Apple to be the arbiter of quality in the App Store, denying apps that are ugly, poorly-thought, lame, explicit or featureless. He can’t say that in the Terms and Conditions so instead they’re using carefully-worded language that excludes certain technologies associated with the kinds of apps he doesn’t like. Steve Jobs doesn’t want sh!t in his App Store. If you’re a developer who may be interested in building sh!t, there’s another platform right down the street.

Speaking from the point of view of someone who wants to build beautiful, high-quality apps for the iPhone and iPad: if you’re too lazy to learn how to build iPhone-like iPhone apps using Apple-supplied tools then get the hell out of my App Store, too.*

Isn’t that some mainlined arrogance? The App Store is the lillied preserve of fabulous apps built by maestros of user interface design.

Apps Like iFart.

Whot crap.

Really? The App Store is There to Ensure Quality?
Are you going to argue that App Store of 150000+ apps is all about quality? How many fart apps are there again? If the point of the App Store is quality, why are there thirty-seven apps for every use? A billion flashlight apps?

I’ve purchased seven different Twitter apps — isn’t one of them best? (Actually, yes, Twittelator :-)) Why are the others allowed?

I’ve got five Google Reader apps — MobileRSS is the best, so why not throw the others out?

I have an entire page of streaming media apps. PocketTunes is the most stable, so how come ooTunes and WunderRadio are still in the App Store?

How many weather apps are there again?

If you think Apple’s control of the App Store is about quality, you’re lost in a fog of aluminum unibody construction fumes.

If you think Apple’s control of the App Store is about quality, where is Google Voice?

All told, I’ve downloaded over two hundred apps — I have some experience climbing through the App Store. And let me tell you, it is rife with sh!t. And Apple cares only lightly about the quality of apps. Just look in iTunes.

Lots of Sh!t in iTunes — All For Sale
Apple doesn’t exert any of this control over Movies, music, and TV in iTunes, do they? Nope. As long as they get their cut, you can sell what you want.

  • Violent movies? Please buy them!
  • NSFW language? We got tons of that!
  • Crappy movies? Crappy songs? Crappy TV? We got TONS, and we are happy to sell it to you!

Apple could give a sh!t about offending your taste in iTunes, and in fact, they could give a sh!t in the App Store too. Hell, I haven’t checked, but my Most Hated Movie of all time is probably for sale in iTunes. And that should be a crime.

All this talk about quality, tastefulness, protecting the children, and the sweetness of dancing koala bears is just disingenuous BS.

Apple Exercises Relentless Control of the App Store Because It Wants To.

They don’t do it for any reason that benefits the customer. They do it solely for themselves.

Apple decided they could make more money with this level of control. Period.

That’s ok, and it is their right. When I bought a 3G, and then a 3GS, I understood what I was getting into. Their bat, their ball, their ball field. I get it. That’s part of why I’ll be going Android next year. (A much bigger reason is the fact that the iPhone is such a decrepit phone. I really need my phone to, ah, make calls. The iPhone is the least reliable phone I have ever owned, across Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T, encompassing a bunch of handset manufacturers.)

I could list the myriad of ways Apple’s control stifles the platform, how the iPhone experience has soured me on Macs, how Apple’s horrid, bloated, behemoth iTunes drove me to Amazon for digital downloads, but that is not relevant.

Everyone understands that Apple has complete control of the whole ecosystem. We get it. Don’t dress it up in some rose-colored pursuit of quality. That makes it sound like you think of your users as idiots who need hand-holding. It makes developers feel special, and leads Apple to patronize their users. But it has nothing to do with quality.

That idea, not to put too fine a point on it, is sh!t.

Same with Apple’s new, pathetic mandate that you have to use their tools. Apparently just ignoring the virtual certainty that someone might come up with better ways to build iApps. Apple is not doing this to ensure a higher quality of app; Apple is in it for the money. They want it to be hard to build a single app for both Android and iPhone. Really, is using Xcode going to make your app great? Quoting again:

Using Xcode and Objective-C are not surefire ways to build decent iPhone apps, and using “meta-platforms” and other languages are not surefire ways to build crappy, non-Apple-like iPhone apps. Are they indicators about how much passion someone has for the iPhone platform and building quality iPhone user experiences? In my experience the answer is yes.

Because it is just so easy to measure passion. What’s the unit of measure there?

Apple just wants to make money. Ascribing any other motivation is just stupid.

*The sh!t misspellings are mine, since this is an Apple-related post. Can’t have vulgarity in an Apple-related post — that would violate the App Store guidelines. Or Steve Jobs’ sense of smell. Or something.

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19 Comments on “No Sh!t Allowed in the App Store? Oh Please!”

  1. steve Says:

    Very good point, nice call out of the quality arguement

  2. John Debs Says:

    I think Apple is trying to paint broader strokes here. The stuff they’re forbidding now is to set trends for apps on that platform. Consider software on the Mac, for example: At this point, Mac users _don’t_tolerate_ software that doesn’t match the quality of the rest of the system. And in response, many developers step up their game and actually _create_better_software_. What started as a restricted system evolved (and is evolving) into a more open one. Consider how strongly Apple is pushing the open Web standards in their advertising.

    Call me a fanboy, but they’ve done it in the past and I trust that they understand what they’re doing better than 99% of these people criticizing them. They realize that if they *really* screw people over, they’ll lose their core users and, after them, lots of other people. Seems like people don’t like to admit it, but this company has a cult following for a reason.

    As icing on the cake, they’re forcing other companies to compete with them (Google and Microsoft, among many others) to put out stuff that’s _actually_good_. They’re twisting some arms to do it, but we’re all better off for it. Few companies have the balls to do what Apple is doing to Flash; I think Adobe is taking a slight against one bad (albeit pervasive) technology too personally.

    Bravo to Apple.


    • designbygravity Says:

      I don’t know, I am much less sanguine than you are. Consider: Apple has *never* been in a market leader position like they are now. It is far easier, and a far more attractive proposition, to exert such control over a platform when you are appealing to a relatively small group of sophisticated users.

      With the iDevices, it just comes across as patronizing and nanny-ish.

      Re: Flash, the problem here is that there is this huge chunk of users who have seen (think Hulu, MLB, etc.) Flash do good stuff, reliably, for a while. Last year I watched better than 100 MLB games in 480p hi-def on my HTPC with nary a hiccup. Flash may be a bad technology, but much of its badness is surely attributable to lousy programs written in it. Hard to hold the malignancy of Flash advertising against Flash the technology.

      Also consider: How much improvement to Flash could Apple have pushed if they had spend 3-6 months working with Adobe? How much better would we all be *right now* if Apple had helped/forced Adobe to improve Flash?

      • John Debs Says:

        It’s true they’ve never been in this position, but people are pointing fingers without considering Apple’s position all the way through. Apple hasn’t done anything “evil,” and Steve Jobs has been (uncharacteristically & supposedly) e-mailing back some of those that e-mail him to address people’s concerns. It comes down to a matter of whether you believe what Apple says or not; they’ve done nothing to make them guilty as far as I’m concerned. Steve exerts tons of control over his company, sure, but that’s not the issue.

        Regarding “a small group of sophisticated users”: I don’t believe Apple decides to target a certain area of the market, and their marketing sure doesn’t discriminate. They create really well-designed products and charge a reasonable premium on them. And why wouldn’t they? They’re among the best as what the do.

        Regarding Flash: In my experience, it’s awful on OS X. Steve is totally in the right when he calls Adobe lazy in this respect. This is about a specific technology performing badly on the platform that is common to every computing device his company makes. I don’t see why he should tolerate that. Adobe has had time to make Flash good for OS X. Apple could have prodded them to improve it more quickly, but is that their responsibility? Adobe is a pretty mature company, I don’t see many good excuses here. Picture how good the public reception to the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad would have been if the battery life (a *major* selling point for these devices) were half or less. Years after the iPhone came out, Adobe still doesn’t have a stable version of Flash that doesn’t peg my CPU and spin up my fans every time I watch video online :-/. I can’t wait for HTML5 to settle in.

        As Tog says in the e-mail I linked to earlier, Apple’s got their eye set on what things will look like 5 years from now, not just by the end of this fiscal quarter.

        Don’t get me wrong, though, I love that people are keeping them honest.

        • James Williams Says:

          Jon, Apple hasn’t done anything “evil”? You’re crazy if you actually believe that. As a developer, I’m appalled that I’m only allowed to use tools that they choose to create an app. They screwed over Unity3d, Appcelerator and mostly Adobe. They released these plans just DAYS before Adobe CS5 release. If this isn’t “evil” in the business tech soap opera, I don’t know what is.

          Flash sucks on Apple and probably would have sucked at first on the iPhone. Since Mac users “don’t put up” with sub-par, no Flash apps would be downloaded and no harm done. Hell, if Apple was doing their job correctly they wouldn’t MAKE it into the app store in the first place…yet somehow 60+ fart apps are “quality” now?

          This was a business decision, you can hate Adobe as a company as much as you like but in the end it’s hurting all of us as Apple consumers. There would have been great Flash, Unity3D and Appcelerator apps that will not be made for the App Store.

    • I think you’ve got some things backwards. Apple isn’t “forcing other companies to compete with them”. They’re using anti-competitive practices to avoid having to compete. They’re in a dominant position, but they see the competition closing in fast, so they’re doing their best to raise the barrier for the competition. Making it hard to write apps that work on both iPhone OS and competing systems is one way to do that. The “it’s for quality” argument is a lie, and Flash is just a convenient distraction. (If you think this is all about Flash, then you don’t really understand the new developer agreement.)

      No other major platform in personal computing history has forbidden developers from using tools like source-to-source translators or libraries written in other languages. Apple’s one step away from making developers sign an agreement that they won’t develop for competing platforms.

      The good news is that they’re shooting themselves in the foot with this short-sighted thinking (that’s the other thing you got backwards). Their recent moves have made many developers think twice about developing for iPhone OS. Those who stay behind are basically handicapped because they can’t use more advanced development tools. I would not be surprised at all if in a few years the other platforms have blown past iPhone OS when it comes to not just quantity, but also quality of apps.

      • John Debs Says:

        Flash comes into play in two places here and it helps to clarify: In the browser, and in the developer agreement. In the browser, there is no excuse. I side strongly with Apple.

        The developer agreement does cover a lot of technologies besides Flash but I focused on Flash to keep the post short(er). I feel John Gruber’s ‘insightful and not negative’ post about this is spot on: Apple prides itself on controlling the whole stack of technology and that’s a big reason they can create great products. Calling them ‘anti-competitive’ vs. ‘controlling for the sake of the user experience’ comes down to whether you believe they’re actually greedy/malicious or really just concerned with the user experience. It seems most companies take the former route, while Apple’s history is much more the latter. This is the point that so many people are split on. It may just be that we agree to disagree until time shows who’s got it right. If you’d like to see some more links with stuff straight from people at Apple clearly stating this, I can provide plenty.

        No other platform has forbidden developers from this type of thing: right. No other company shares Apple’s management style. That alone is no reason to assume they’re up to no good.

        I highly recommend that article I linked to if you haven’t read it through. The author seems like a very reasonable guy, and he’s very well-informed as he worked directly with Apple for 14 years. His experience makes his argument infinitely better than mine.

        Regarding Apple’s competition: You can’t say things haven’t improved since Apple hit the mobile scene. And who’s actually lost something so far? Quite frankly, I just hear whining. Let’s not blur the line between fiercely competitive and anti-competitive. Apple doesn’t want sh!t on their platform! What do you think of their incredible support of open Web standards? They are setting the bar here too, in so many ways. As a web developer who’s sick of what Microsoft did to *that* platform, I’m ecstatic to see companies do for the Web what Apple and Google are doing.

        I’d be convinced by an argument that takes into account the whole picture, but the whole picture (to me) says they’re making the right decision.

        • James Williams Says:

          You keep making the assumption that all Flash, Unity3D, Appcelerator, etc. Apps are automatically of sub-par quality. THIS IS NOT TRUE.

          I like that Apple controls its internal market with the review process. This is awesome because I can trust that the content is of Apple quality. Deciding which tools a developer uses or which instruments a musician plays doesn’t mean quality. Give a shitty musician a Gibson and he will still play shitty music. Give a great musician a shitty Guitar and he can still play wonderful music. This also applies to development.

          I don’t see how you can hate Microsoft for what they did to *that* platform yet be ecstatic with Apple. Their future of the web is a completely closed system with ALL profits running through Apple. The computer you use to develop, the computer you use to run, the original programming language, and soon the be the IDE. I’m not going to be a part of that system.

        • I read Gruber’s post. In fact, I referenced it in my own post from about a week ago:

          Gruber gets it wrong because (as both my post and this post point out) there’s ample evidence that this issue isn’t really about quality. Also, in that post I have listed many things other than cross-platform toolkits that are now forbidden by Apple’s new rules. Look for “Some of the things section 3.3.1 actually will prevent are”. Forbidding these things is like telling carpenters “the only tool you can use is a #2 phillips screwdriver, which we will provide”. This handicaps iPhone OS developers significantly. From what I’ve been hearing over the past week, it sounds like many existing iPhoneOS apps are affected. It’ll be interesting to see if Apple actually pulls those apps or not.

          I’d also read Tog’s post. I think it’s an interesting theory, and while there are some parallels, I don’t buy the argument as a whole. The iPhone is already “missing the arrow keys”, both literally and figuratively. It has a completely different UI from a normal computer and so anyone developing for it knows they can’t just recompile their old apps for iPhone OS. This is even true for Flash apps (though to a lesser extent) as there isn’t any “hover” on a touch screen.

          Frankly, I think that what Steve Jobs is doing with iPhone OS is either malicious or stupid., and I don’t think Steve Jobs is stupid. I do, however think he isn’t a software engineer, and may not really understand what effect these rules have on software developers. Maybe he, like so many Apple fanboys, is only thinking of “lazy Flash developers” and is forgetting (or is unaware in the first place) that these restrictions also lock out many of the tools used by all of the really good developers. I think it’s more likely that he’s simply forgetting that iPhone OS developers can leave the platform entirely, and given enough pressure, many of them will. I know I certainly won’t be developing any iPhone OS apps as long as the only tools I can use are basically toys. I have some other thoughts about why Jobs is doing what he’s doing in another post I wrote:

  3. Daniel Says:

    Excellent. Brilliantly put!

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  5. John Says:

    “Apple could give a sh!t about offending your taste in iTunes, and in fact, they could give a sh!t in the App Store too.”

    You mean “couldn’t give a sh!t”.

  6. androidy Says:

    No platform or store would want to allow crappy apps. Now that’s a good thing. Apple is no different. The actual thing to consider is monopoly which Apple has always tried to drive by. But now platforms like Android have shaken the world of Steve Jobs dictatorship in embedded market. It’s only about keeping the captured market in hands now. And Apple is making big mistakes to achieve that.

  7. […] No Sh!t Allowed in the App Store? Oh Please! « Design By Gravity […]

  8. Schmoo Says:

    The word is ‘shit’. We can handle it, we’re all growed up now.

  9. suitenectar Says:

    iPhone to Leapfrog Verizon, Launch at Cricket Wireless (

  10. […] No Sh!t Allowed in the App Store? Oh Please! Everyone’s entire iPhone experience is controlled by Apple. Ditto for iPad owners. Good thing Apple is never […] […]

  11. cellurl Says:

    Try Back Seat Driver for Android-only.
    Its pure sheit.

  12. flash games Says:

    I think Apple is trying to paint broader strokes

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