Apple's app approval policies have been in the news quite often in recent times. While the developer community has always opposed Apple's strict and inconsistent approval policies, the noise has especially become louder after Facebook's leading iPhone app developer Joe Hewitt quit the team to make his views known against Apple's policies.
In an apparent damage control mode, Phil Schiller, the Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing at Apple, in his recent interview to Business Week elaborates the reasons why the review process must exist. The main reason, Schiller says is to offer a family-friendly App Store where you and your family members may download apps well knowing that they are something that you can trust. In his words,
"You and your family and friends can download applications from the store, and for the most part they do what you'd expect, and they get onto your phone, and you get billed appropriately, and it all just works. There have been applications submitted for approval that will steal personal data, or which are intended to help the user break the law, or which contain inappropriate content"
While that does sound like an act of utmost nobility, we need to look back on some of the approval policies that have caused derision
- Google Voice and Latitude apps were rejected despite a lot of similar apps having got through the approval process.
- EyeTV iPhone app was rejected because the live streaming app did not go too well with AT&T
- Another app called 0870 was approved after nearly 429 days
- An utterly distasteful 'Baby Shaker' app was let through only to be rejected after public outrage
The above examples are just a few of the many instances, but show a trend of approval policies that invite ridicule from the developer community. A lot many of the iPhone apps are rejected for competitive reasons (with Apple's native software or with partner carriers), while a few inappropriate apps get through despite the stringent approval policies.
Apple's intention to act by the law and provide appropriate apps to their customers cannot be doubted, but we are at a point when there needs to be a look-back on how well the approval policies have worked. Clearly, with so many opposing voices, things have not been perfect and the approval policy needs to be fine-tuned.
So what is the way forward? Our position has always been that the approval policy needs to be made more consistent. However, with close to 10,000 apps being submitted on a daily basis, it becomes highly impossible to maintain high standards.
One possible alternative is to replace the present procedure with a ratings systems – similar to the MPAA movie ratings. Like in the case of movies, there are apps that are not family-friendly, those that contain illegal content and other apps that are good for everyone. Apple needs to acknowledge the intelligence of the customer and let them take the decision and stop with merely advising on an app's suitability by offering a rating.
A ratings system will not only offer a better means for the iPhone user to judge the app before download, but will also create a more congenial app-ecosystem where Apple shall no longer be seen as the police or gatekeeper, but as a friend and a well-wisher.
What do you think?
[via Business Week]