Among the major revelations of Apple's summertime response to the Federal Communications Commission's inquiry into its handling of the Google Voice VoIP application was the unprecedented look into the App Store approval process. According to Apple, the App Store receives about 8,500 new iPhone and iPod touch application submissions and updates each week, distributed among 40 full-time, trained reviewers--Apple contends that roughly 95 percent of all apps are approved within 14 days of submission, and only about 20 percent are not approved as originally submitted. Last week, Apple updated its Developer Center website to enable coders to track the status of their software as it makes its way through the App Store approval maze, breaking down the process into nine status levels--including "In Review," "Ready for Sale" and "Rejected"--and indicating to programmers where their software presently stands. Given that developers were previously kept in the dark until their iPhone app was either approved and added to the App Store or turned down, the update is a huge step forward in clarifying what really happens behind the scenes.
But for a growing and increasingly vocal segment of the iPhone developer population, the problem isn't so much how Apple conducts the application approval process--it's that the process exists at all. Also last week, Facebook developer Joe Hewitt made a public vow to quit developing for the iPhone, blaming Apple's approval policies. "Time for me to try something new," Hewitt writes on his Twitter page. "I've handed the Facebook iPhone app off to another engineer, and I'm onto a new project." TechCrunch reached out to Hewitt to clarify his comments, and he said "My decision to stop iPhone development has had everything to do with Apple's policies. I respect their right to manage their platform however they want, however I am philosophically opposed to the existence of their review process. I am very concerned that they are setting a horrible precedent for other software platforms, and soon gatekeepers will start infesting the lives of every software developer."
Hours later, Paul Kafasis--a developer with noted Mac software maker Rogue Amoeba--also turned his back on the iPhone platform after an updated version of the firm's Airfoil Speakers Touch app spent over three and a half months lingering in approval purgatory. "We wanted to ship a simple bug fix, and it took almost four months of slow replies, delays, and dithering by Apple," Kafasis writes on the Rogue Amoeba blog. "All the while, our buggy [version] was still available. There's no other word for that but ‘broken.'" Kafasis adds the firm has no additional plans for iPhone applications, and updates for existing apps will be rare: "The iPhone platform had great promise, but that promise is not enough, so we're focusing on the Mac." The reader comments following Kafasis' post make it clear that the snafus facing Rogue Amoeba are still widespread more than a year after the App Store first opened for business--Hewitt and Kafasis may be among the highest-profile developers to sever ties with the iPhone, but it's obvious they're not going to be the last. -Jason