Friday, November 27, 2009

Why is the App Store boring and buggy?

I visit the iPhone App Store fairly often. Excluding games, most of the Apps that I look at are either dull or buggy -- and even good 3rd party apps are slow compared to Apple's apps. Even some of the apps I used to use, like, have become unacceptably buggy. Others are clones of applications I'm currently satisfied with.

Why is this?

I'd like to know. I'll hazard some guesses.

My first guess is that the current iPhone APIs are buggy. Apple's own iPhone apps are pretty responsive and reliable, but, obviously, Apple developers have insider knowledge. Perhaps Apple can use less buggy private APIs, or knows what to avoid.

My second guess is that it's very hard to write an innovative iPhone App. You can't use Location, because there's no background API for that [Corrected thanks to a comment]. You can't mess with the Calendar, because there's no API for that. You can't do anything resembling an Apple product because your App will be rejected. Maybe the dev environment is so challenging that, in addition to the above, you have to be a real hot developer.

A contributing factor is that the non-game developer market is oddly small. For competitive reasons Adobe and Microsoft don't do iPhone development. Apple itself doesn't sell iPhone apps. Google would like to play, but Apple's effectively banned them.

If you add up all of the above, there are very few people have both the capability and the motivation to do non-game iPhone development.

So the (non-game) App store is boring and buggy.

Any other explanation?
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  1. It's easy to understand this frustration, but many of your assertions are not right. There is an API for Location Services and very many apps use it. In fact it seems like most non-game (and even some game) apps will tie in to your location. Apple does sell several apps on the store, and Google still does too (well they're all free). If your complaints are about the app approval process, I think we all share them and that's worth discussing. Some of these other things are literally not issues, though. Is it that the non-game apps are not up your alley? A lot now seem to be related to social networking, which isn't everyone's cup of tea.

  2. Thanks for the corrections! I was thinking that only MobileMe can track an iPhone's location, so there's something that Apple is keeping to itself. I described it incorrectly.

    What does Apple sell? I only know of Remote, I'd forgotten about it (it's free). Similarly Google does sell a Search app with VR, but it's really a frame for their web apps. Unfortunately I couldn't figure out how to navigate the App Store by publisher.

    Google of course did produce Latitude and Voice apps for the App store, but both were blocked.

    I'll keep looking and see if I can get a list of the Apple/Google produced App store products.