Thursday, February 26, 2009

Apple is Removing Apps from the Store --- Again!

Some of you might remember Sound Grenade. A total app store success story. Guy build an app in 20 minutes. You press a button and it makes a very annoying sound. Sound Grenade quickly became the #1 Free app in the App Store. And is sibling Sound Grenade Pro also did very well.

Sound Grenade inspired us to create our own aggravating sound boards. Our first of these was Aggravate Nails on Chalkboard. Now I totally admit, this is a ringtone app. It is free , scrape your finger down the screen and it makes the sound of a Nail scratching a chalkboard. My wife Hates It!! And some days that is funny. Apple doesn't think. And neither does she actually.

Applying some quality metric they are able to distinguish between the annoying sound of Sound Grenade and Nails on Chalkboard. I got an email today saying they were removing it from the store because it does not provide enough functionality to be appropriate for the store.

At the time of this writing the app has 75k Downloads, 1.75 Sessions per user has a CTR on the ads of 10% and was pulling in a whopping $20 a day!

Now I admit the reviews on the app are abysmal, people don't think it sounds like a real chalkboard. I swear that it is a real chalkboard .. we even remastered the sound to make it better. And some people love it. Just not apple, or some reviewer at apple.

Maybe they did me a favor and I should go back to making apps that are not just entertaining but useful as well.

What does it mean? I guess I need to go record two awful sounds and offer that as an aggravating sound board? Would that be enough functionality?


Since the App is still available on the store the mystery of the app store rejection is still continuing. I don't think this letter is under NDA so I thought I would post it for all to get your opinion.

Dear Mr. Clements,

We've reviewed your application, Aggravate Nails On Chalkboard, and we have determined that this application contains minimal user functionality and will not be appropriate for the App Store.

If you would like to share it with friends and family, we recommend you review the Ad Hoc method on the Distribution tab of the iPhone Developer Portal for details on distributing this application among a small group of people of your choosing or if you believe that you can add additional user functionality to Aggravate Nails On Chalkboard, we encourage you to do so and resubmit it for review.


iPhone Developer Program

So who knows what this really means I guess. If I were apple and determined that something was not 'appropriate for the store'. I would remove it from the store. Trouble in the review process? Maybe the reviewer does not know that they are reviewing an update? Still no word from apple.,,,

Latest Update: Aggravate 1.3 is live on the store

So it appears that I misspoke. Or perhaps Apple mis-cut and pasted the rejection response. They never took Aggravate off the store and I didn't have to send adhoc builds to my friends and family for them to be Aggravated. And I didn't have to add a flashlight or farting to the app in order to get it approved.

Aggravate 1.3 was approved a week ago and quickly rose to top 50 in its new category, Utilities. All I did was change the category and re-submit the application.

Not sure what this means. Are the guidelines for utility apps different? Do apple reviewers not realize they are reviewing an update? Could I have re-submitted in Entertainment?

Anyway, you can still aggravate your friends a little longer until the next update perhaps.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Battling the Crackers is not good for your soul

Very recently a piece of software was released that will make it very easy for average Iphone users to crack applications that they have purchased from the AppStore. To varying degrees developers are in an uproar about this and are beginning to have discussions on how best to battle this outrage.

This particular cracking software, ( I am purposely not going to mention the name ), will do for app cracking what napster did for music piracy. The average person will start to see it as a normal means of attaining these applications.

But all is not lost. Currently there are ways of detecting if your application has been cracked and there are many discussions starting around what to do in the case that your application detects that it has been cracked. Most of these discussions result in 'messing' with the user. Randomly crashing and reporting the user to apple are a few of these ideas.

I want to encourage all developers to avoid these types of punitive action. It will only end in heart ache and wasted cycles. Software piracy has been around for a long time and will continue to evolve from where it is today. It is not a war won by indie developers. We have too little time and too many features to implement.

So what can we do? Try to convert these users into paying customers. Treat these cracked apps as "Lite" versions and use the typical approaches to try and get them to pay using one of these methods:

  • Put ads at the top of a cracked app
  • Detect when a user has opened the app more that five times and prompt them to go to the AppStore and purchase the app
  • Remove some features from the application when it has been cracked and let the user know.
  • Set timer that will turn the application off
Many people have been asking Apple to implement try before you buy support into the app store. I think that this is exactly what the crackers are giving us.

Don't take it personally, don't feel threatened, this can be an opportunity.