Ford to Feature Automotive App Store

Ford App Store

The Wall Street Journal reports that Ford is working on an iPhone-like app store for its vehicles. By allowing software developers to tap into existing tech provided by the Sync communication and entertainment system, the American auto company hopes to spur all sorts of vehicular innovations.

Such applications, or “apps,” might do such things as give directions to every espresso shop along a highway open after 9 p.m., or allow friends to follow one another to a location through a GPS process called “breadcrumbing.

American auto companies have struggled to stay viable in recent years. Could an “Automotive App Store” be what is needed to pull Ford out of the economic trenches?

Facebook App Developer Quits, Denounces App Store Approval Process

Former Facebook iPhone app developer, Joe Hewitt

Just yesterday I wrote a post recommending 4 ways for Apple to fix the App Store approval process. I warned that Apple’s tight control of the App Store would drive developers away.

Well, guess what happened today: Facebook for iPhone developer Joe Hewitt has quit the job in a decision he says “has had everything to do with Apple’s policies.”

The web is still unrestricted and free, and so I am returning to my roots as a web developer. In the long term, I would like to be able to say that I helped to make the web the best mobile platform available, rather than being part of the transition to a world where every developer must go through a middleman to get their software in the hands of users.

Several questions come to mind:

  • Why does Facebook have only one iPhone app developer?
  • Do the Facebook app’s numerous flaws have something to do with the long and tedious App Store approval process?
  • Who will replace Hewitt as the Facebook for iPhone developer? Will Facebook for iPhone get better or worse?
  • Will more developers ditch the iPhone? Will they flock to a more open mobile platform (i.e. Android)?

I hope two things happen as a result of this news:

  1. Apple fixes its App Store approval process. Read my 4 suggestions on how Apple should do that.
  2. Facebook appoints a team to work on its iPhone app, rather than a single individual.

I applaud Hewitt for taking a stand against Apple’s “Big Brother” approach to the App Store. I agree with Hewitt that the web is fundamentally free, and the mobile web should be as well.

Update: Facebook VP of Communications says that Facebook does not (officially) agree with Hewitt, and that a new team of developers will “take over iPhone related development.” Read the story on TechCrunch.

What Do You Think?

Was Hewitt right to quit his job as Facebook’s iPhone app developer? Will Apple finally fix (or remove) its App Store approval process? Let me know what you think in the comments.

4 Ways for Apple to Fix the App Store Approval Process

Mashable reports that Apple is fixing the App Store approval process by adding “the ability to track the status of apps submitted to Apple’s store.”

It’s good to know Apple is giving developers some insight into the App Store approval process by providing status updates, but Apple needs to do more to embrace developers, who have been a crucial part of the iPhone’s success.

Here are 4 changes we need to see in the App Store approval process:

  1. Shorten the approval time for trusted developers. I remember waiting weeks between when Facebook submitted their Facebook 3.0 app to the App Store and its actual arrival to the App Store. Must Apple continue to make trusted companies wait weeks before their apps are approved (or rejected) in the App Store? If anything, Apple could appoint more employees to the approval committee to make it a more pleasant process for the people who keep the App Store afloat, developers. Update: Facebook’s iPhone app developer has quit, citing his discomfort over the App Store approval process.
  2. Stop rejecting apps that criticize public figures. Apple recently rejected Bobble Tap because it contained caricatures of politicians that were not even objectionable. The developer said the app was in good taste, just an informational database. Judging by the screenshots of the app, I agree. Apple, lighten up and let people express themselves however they want. If apps are threatening or illegal, we have the government to deal with that. We don’t need you to police the App Store. Update: Apple has reversed its decision about the Bobble Tap app.

    Bobble Tap iPhone app

  3. Don’t diss Google. Apple rejected the Google Voice app, claiming that the app “duplicates features that come with the iPhone.” But plenty of apps duplicate native iPhone features. Look at how many apps in the App Store record voice, display weather and even send text messages. Apple, if you continue to ignore Google they are going to ignore you, and you don’t want that, especially considering the Android army that is about to be unleashed. Play nice, boys.
  4. Allow adult content. It’s called “Parental Controls,” Apple. It changed television by allowing parents to block objectionable content from children. It could change the iPhone, too. Just add an “18+” Restriction to the Settings and we’re all set. Apple, stop trying to play Mom and Pop and let adults be adults.

These solutions are good for Apple, these solutions are good for developers. As far as I’m concerned, if it places Apple in a good light with iPhone developers, it’s a smart business decision. You don’t want all your App Store developers flocking to Android, do you Apple?

Would Apple Ban a Google Audio iPhone App?

Tech Crunch reports that Google will soon launch a music service, which may be called Google Audio.

Google Audio for iPhone

The question for us iPhone users is: Will Google attempt to launch a Google Audio iPhone app, and if so, will Google Audio for iPhone go the way of Google Voice?

Remember when Google submitted its Google Voice iPhone app to the App Store last July? Apple banned the app, citing “duplicate features that come with the iPhone,” because Google Voice would create competition for AT&T’s calling & SMS services. Would a Google Audio iPhone app be banned for competing with iPod and the iTunes Store?

What Will a Google Voice iPhone App Look Like?

We don’t yet know what Google Voice will look like, or what it will do. But if Google’s history of innovation is any indication, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is somehow a game-changer. And that could be bad news for Apple.

After all, iTunes is by far the leader in music downloads. Any competition from Google in the market for online music would certainly be unwanted.

Of course, there’s already a Pandora iPhone app that lets you stream music and bypass the iPod, but Pandora doesn’t give you on-demand access to specific songs. Google Audio will presumably offer music downloads. What if a Google Audio iPhone app let you download songs to the app itself?

Could a Google Audio iPhone app make iTunes irrelevant? If so, can we expect Apple to ban Google Audio from iPhone? What do you think?

Apple Blocks iPhone Video Camera App

The makers of iVidCam, a video recording app for the iPhone, contacted me about how Apple blocked their iPhone app ahead of the release of the iPhone 3G S, which features a video camera.

I regret not seeing this letter in my inbox earlier, but I think it´s worth sharing. Of course, take this with a grain of salt. Here it is:

This is our story of how we created a breakthrough video camera app for the iPhone only to have our hopes unfairly crushed by Apple.

In October, we started development on iVidCam, a video recording app for the iPhone. We invested a lot of capital and resources because we knew if we got a video camera app working, then it would be an instant hit. By January, we had finished the mp4 video encoding engine, but we needed a way to take multiple pictures per second to make video.

In February, our breakthrough came. Apple featured 25shot, an app that took 25 pictures in 5 seconds. The app used a custom camera view and took 5 screenshots per second. Our team studied the app and integrated the same function into iVidCam. We saw Apple’s featuring 25shot on the front page of the App Store as a signal to developers that this function was highlighted and encouraged by Apple.

In March, we finished development of iVidCam and even added wireless transfer and YouTube upload functions to the app. We were confident that this app would go #1 in the App Store. It had everything users wanted – a functional video camera app, mp4 encoding, wireless transfer, and YouTube upload of the recorded videos. We posted the app to iTunesConnect for Apple approval on March 27. Several days later we were shocked to discover Apple had rejected the app due to what they said was an “unpublished API.”

The same day we called the highest management person at Apple we knew, John Geleynse. We met him at the L.A. Tech Talk last year and he appeared to be the main iPhone evangelist. We thought that he could surely help us. On the phone, he was cordial and even agreed with us that talking to the regular reviewers was not going to do anything. He told us to email him an email stating our case with specifics and that he would forward it to Lead of the App Review Team. He assured us this was the way to go.

We emailed John Geleynse the same day. And this was the beginning of almost 2 months of being ignored, neglected and overlooked by Apple. Our emails to the Lead of the App Review Team were not being directly responded to. We asked for dialogue, and they gave us no personal replies but sent us form letters intead. Throughout this process, we were committed to working with Apple and not complaining publicly. We wanted to give every opportunity for Apple to address our concerns. Apple deeply disappointed us by ignoring us for months.

* March 31-May 18 correspondence with Director of Tech Evangelism, John Geleynse

By mid-May we had reached the point of exasperation. Our efforts to dialogue with Apple, their main iPhone evangelist, and the Lead of the App Review Team had led to nothing. We decided to try one more time with Apple, this time writing to the highest management possible, Steve Jobs. Here’s our May 18th letter to Steve Jobs that we asked several high management people at Apple to make sure it got to him:

* May 18 letter to Steve Jobs

We ended up getting a reply from Senior VP Phil Schiller, who ironically is going to be giving the keynote speech at June 8, 2009 WWDC where Apple could announce their own video camera app for the iPhone. Phil Schiller’s email and following correspondence ended up to be another big disappointment. Apple never took us seriously and refused to dialogue with us on the issues we brought up.

* May 18-27 correspondence with VP Phil Schiller

After two months of being unable to dialogue with Apple, we learned that perhaps we were just too insignificant in Apple’s eyes. Even though we had published hundreds of iPhone apps in the App Store, we were just one developer with a complaint in Apple’s eyes. We decided to draft a petition letter to end the unfair practice of rejecting custom camera view apps by Apple.

* Petition Letter from Photo App Developers

And finally, we’ve decided to share our story publicly. Maybe Apple will change if enough people let them know they don’t agree with how they’ve handled this situation. We can no longer do it by ourselves, we need your help.

* Please email Apple to let them know you’re unhappy about their actions ( and

In closing, this saga has seeded many doubts about the partnership that Apple has with developers like us.

1. Our company has been damaged and devastated.

We’ve spent the majority of our resources on iVidCam, only to see it unjustly rejected and Apple closed to dialogue. It’s frustrating especially since we were big fans of Apple and our company of 6 iphone developers has been committed to developing iPhone apps and working with Apple. We were counting on iVidCam sales. Now our company is struggling to break even and we’re at the unenviable place of deciding whether continuing to develop for the iPhone is sustainable or not.

2. It doesn’t feel good to be disrespected, neglected, and misled as a developer.

It’s been a stressful process because we’ve tried our best to communicate and reach out to Apple, only to be ignored and not treated as a true dialogue partner. If Apple treats developers like this now, what is the future of Apple-and-developers relations? In our case, we feel like Apple misled us, changed the rules arbitrarily, and punished us for trying to be good iPhone developers that work within the system. Ironically, our company has been committed 100% to developing for the non-jailbroken iPhone, only to be punished by Apple. And if Apple comes out with their own video camera app on June 8, 2009 at WWDC, it will be a sad day for us and also thousands of developers. The App Store is not a good system when the people in charge can do whatever they want with no accountability, even at the loss and damage of other parties.

3. What’s a published API?

One of the key issues in our story is what constitutes a “published API”? We’ve stated this over and over to Apple, but we believe that one of the strongest publishing mechanisms they have is the front page of the App Store. Apple appears to meticulously choose which apps to feature. The featured apps encourage users to buy them and developers to develop them. In this case, Apple featured 25shot in February and QuadCam in May, along with approving dozens of custom camera view apps in between. These featured apps appeared to millions of iPhone users on their desktop and also on their iPhones (AppStore). If these apps were using an “unpublished API”, then why were they featured multiple times on the front page of the App Store? And why were dozens of these apps approved? If Apple was wrong in featuring these apps, then they misled developers like us to spend tons of capital and resources in development. Regardless, by featuring these apps, Apple clearly implicitly published the use of these APIs to millions of users and developers. And by continuously featuring these apps, Apple strengthened their published position of the custom camera api usage.

Please share this story with your readers.

David and Susan Lee
GP Apps

Will Apple “Borrow” Features from Developers’ iPhone Apps?

Update: I wrote this article March 2008 and I am now wondering if some iPhone 3.0 features will cause iPhone app developers to lose their businesses. Developers, if you are concerned about Apple’s new features competing with your apps, I would like to know about it.

I have a serious concern about the upcoming iPhone App Store that no one has addressed yet:

What happens when Apple issues an iPhone firmware update introducing features from a 3rd-party iPhone application in the App Store?

For example: let’s say a developer lists a Voice Dialing application in the App Store in June, and in July Apple issues an iPhone firmware update featuring voice dial functionality.

Read more