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Apple, Developers Think You Are Just One Inconsistent Loop

We asked a group of independent developers the question, what frustrates you most about developing on iOS?

Their answers were thought provoking and encouraged us to write about them in detail.

Inconsistent app rejections, flagging developer accounts, long app review times and not being able to update your metadata without a new app update were all discussed.

Do you agree with the developers we spoke to?

There’s been quite a bit of noise around Apple and the way they treat the developers who contribute sweat, blood and tears in order to create applications which are played by millions of people over the world.

Recently, a few articles have surfaced which highlight the strange decisions Apple have taken, to name a few:

Banning video incentivisation, then backing down.

Removing applications from the App Store  for incentivized sharing, yet Candy Crush remains?

Of course, it’s very obvious to everyone why the bigger applications are allowed to remain. However, why is there so much inconsistency from Apple? Why is incentivisation a problem? Do app consumers care?

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We surveyed fifty different independent developers to ask what their main frustrations were with Apple, these were the results.

(The results are based on a survey of 50 independent developers.)

 

#1. What infuriates you most about developing on iOS?

54% of the developers we surveyed said their biggest issue with Apple is the inconsistency of the review team.

Many developers are often complaining that Apple seem to make up the rules as they go along. There needs to be  much firmer guidelines in place, and ideally a detailed review scheme with increased transparency. This could give developers a far better understanding of whether or not they are going against Apple’s rules.

Yes, there are guidelines, but it’s clear these are very much at the discretion of the reviewer. If an Apple reviewer has any personal (personal being the key word) objection to the app, it appears they will reject it.

For those interested, we wrote about our app review experiences here.

Another frustration which was raised centred around the ever increasing fragmentation of hardware and software…

When the iPhone first launched, there was only one device for iOS whilst at the same time, there were 50+ different devices operating on Android. One of the biggest pain points for developers was the fact that in order to generate significant  revenue, they had to build their application for the majority of devices, adding significant development time to a project.

There is still far more fragmentation on Android, as you can see from this chart below:

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Source: OpenSignal

However, you can see that iOS version fragmentation is accelerating, and as our developers have said, it’s becoming more of a frustration.

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That’s just the software, now look at the hardware that needs to be taken into account:

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#2. If you could ask Apple one question, what would it be?

Apparently, Apple have been flagging a lot of accounts recently, however, even though this issue was brought up many time, no one I have asked could come back to me with a concrete  answer as to why.

I even posted to the largest app marketing community on Facebook asking for evidence, but had no luck.This shows iOS screen sizes, needless to say – you have to also design and build for retina based screens as well. Whilst developing on iOS is nowhere near as frustrating as Android, it’s getting tougher.

Even with that said, developers are fairly certain  that Apple are flagging their accounts for  one of the following reasons:

–   Falsifying reviews (appreview.me had some issues with Apple, which you can see here)
–   Continuous reskins of other applications

Here are some snippets of conversations that have been occurring around the subject:

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It has to be emphasised, I have no hardcore evidence of any app being flagged, but if you are reading this and you believe you have some proof  – please let me know.

How can I get my app featured?

There are no surprises that this request came up. Many developers want to know how they can increase their chances of getting their app featured on the App Store.

The chart below make’s it pretty obvious as to why having your app featured is a pretty big deal:

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Provided to us by Distimo, the chart shows the impact of a feature for the game Shark Dash. There is a huge jump in revenue and downloads, but interestingly as soon as the feature is over – the downloads and revenues start to plummet. You would expect one of the biggest publishers on the App Store to have established a viral loop…

A transparent search algorithm

Of course, no search engine is ever going to fully disclose it’s algorithm for discoverability – but sometimes an indication of what a content creator should be doing to maximise their chances of exposure goes a long way.

One of the most infuriating parts of Apple at the moment is how flawed their App Store search is.

This screenshot, taken from MacWorld, clearly shows one of the major issues with the App Store search. Of course, if you want to browse movies – you need to download…Instagram?

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And, one screenshot from a search I did whilst writing this blog post. If I search for Whatsapp, the second result I get is…

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If Apple were more transparent with their search algorithms, maybe developers would work harder on refining the keywords they use in order to reach a more relevant audience.

 

#3. If you could change the App Store to make discoverability easier, how would you do it?

The majority of developers we surveyed said that they want a keyword research tool that shows volumes of searches, just like on Google Adwords.

As App Store Optimisation (ASO) becomes more and more important, increasingly developer want to obtain more information about which keywords to use, as this will have a direct effect on how much traction they could potentially generate from natural search.

Another request the developers we spoke to had was that they would like the opportunity to add more keywords to their keyword field.

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Clearly, the most popular way users find applications to download is through search. As such, The importance of ASO has never been more prominent and it seems because of this, developers are desperate to get more insight on keyword volume.

Make metadata changeable without an update

This would be an awesome addition to the App Store. Google Play allows developers to edit all their meta data whenever they wish. Apple only allows developers to edit their app’s description. Why?

When you think about it, having to update an app just to change metadata could be one of the contributing factors to why Apple has problems with long review times. If they allowed developers to freely change metadata – it would surely reduce the review queues for both Apple and independent developers.

Change how the charts function

This has always been one of my biggest issues with the App Store.

A predominantly numbers driven App Store chart means that companies can very easily buy their way to the top of the chart – resulting in organic growth.

The problem is, only very few companies, the top 25 to be exact, can afford to do it.

Recently an ex-executive at Apple wrote an open letter to Tim Cook agreeing with many of the developers who we spoke to.

You can view the full letter from Jean- Louis Gassee to Tim Cook, here.

The  most compelling quote to draw from it would be the following:

“You know the numbers better than anyone — I don’t need to quote them to you — but we all know that the iOS App Store is a veritable gold mine. Unfortunately, the App Store isn’t being mined in the best interests of Apple’s customers and developers, nor, in the end, in the interests of the company itself.

The App Store may be a gold mine, but it’s buried in an impenetrable jungle.”

Developers and consumers need it to change, but will Apple listen?

 

#4. If you could sum up your experience developing on iOS in one word, what would it be?

So, with all the above said and done – what are the words developers would use to describe their experiences with Apple.

It’s an interesting spread:

– Fun
– Delusional
– Long ride to awesome results (not quite one word….)

And our personal favourite..

–   Esoteric

(To save you reaching for you dictionaries… “intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.”

Probably the scariest question, from Apple’s perspective though, was this:

 

#5. If other platforms started to generate just as much revenue for your applications as iOS does, would you still develop for Apple?

50% said no.

Whilst there are a number of issues that do genuinely infuriate developers who build on iOS – they are forced to continue to develop for iOS because it’s their primary source of revenue. However, as soon as new, lucrative avenues open up for developers, it will be very interesting to watch whether a wave of developers abandon the platform to new pastures, or whether Apple will start to acknowledge the crescendo of needs coming from the developers who, after all, very much helped take Apple to become the world’s most valuable technology company.



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