A prime example of why Apple needs to overhaul the App store – and the solution - Macenstein

A prime example of why Apple needs to overhaul the App store – and the solution

There has been much complaining on the interweb of late about the amount of useless/worse than useless apps cluttering up the iTunes app store, with some folks even calling for Apple to overhaul the approval system. Now, obviously an app that may appear useless to one person might be deemed critical by another, so it would be nearly impossible for Apple to make judgment calls on which apps to ban and which to let through. Yet the problem is real, and needs to be addressed. To help illustrate the issue, let’s take a quick look at a series of apps that have justifiably caught the attention (and wrath) of faithful Macenstein reader Nadir:

” I was just surfing the app store sifting through all the clutter-ware looking for useful utilities to add to my iPhone. Every day it gets harder and harder. Just take a look at what a dollar will buy you (see screenshot, or search “jerrybeers” on the app store).

This guy is trying to sell icons for speed dial buttons, based on popular names. First of all, they don’t even really save any real time. A quick double tap of the home button will bring up your speed dials just as fast. Second, it’s garbage like this that buries useful apps. Third, isn’t Mandi spelled with a “y”? I’m afraid that one day the app store will become un-surfable. In his description he states “Don’t see a name you need or want a custom icon? Just let me know” On second thought. . . I have a friend named Gorlock, maybe he can design an icon for him. I’m sick of double tapping my home button.”

” Hmm, maybe’s he’s on to something. Aren’t you tired of have having to “calculate” tips using a tip calculator app”? We’re iPhone users for Pete’s sake! I’m going to design an icon/app for every possible bill amount you can receive at a restaurant. Bill came out to $23.68? just hit the $23.68 icon to see the appropriate tip. I am going to be rich!!!!!!”

Now, with all due respect to Gorlock, I think you’ll agree that Nadir has a point. First of all, if it were just one idiot clogging up the store, that would be one thing. But iPhone developers appear to lack all the creativity often attributed to Mac users. So when they see that a fart application has made $70,000, two weeks later, there are over 50 fart applications and counting. So yes, the problem is that if someone sees these speed-dialing apps, and thinks someone is making money of them, then suddenly you go from 1 developer with 100 speed dialing named apps to 50 developers with 100 speed dialing apps.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, it’s actually a two-part solution, and you cheap bastards may not want to hear it, but part one is that Apple needs to raise the minimum price any application can be sold for from 99¢ to $3.99. How did I come up with that number? Well, I pulled it out of my ass. But the reality is, while four people MIGHT buy a speed-dialing app to “Call Joe” for 99¢, no one is going to spend $4.00 on it. By raising the price of craptastic 99¢ apps that tempt people to try them out based solely on a title or screen shot, Apple will quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. Crap “developers” will quickly abandon their apps if there is no viable business model. And don’t worry, you’re still getting a great deal. Palm users who want to play BeJeweled 2 have to plunk down $20 for the Windows Mobile version.

Furthermore, any app that has not sold a copy in over 4 months needs to be pulled from the store. That’s it.

“But won’t that stop people from trying out new apps?” you say?. Well, yes, actually. People will not willingly plop down $4 to try out a crap app, but also many decent ones, and that could hurt the “real” developers. So that is why part two of the plan is to force developers to include timed demos of all their paid apps. Every app, game or utility, needs to be able to be downloaded as a free demo first – perhaps a fixed time limit, like 10 minutes of usage, or perhaps a set number of launches (such as three launches, then prompt the user to buy or delete the app).

I have thought long and hard about this (ok, not really) and I feel this is the ONLY way Apple can hope to save the App store, and give quality developers a chance to have their applications get discovered. Tell me how right I am in the comments.

17 Responses to “A prime example of why Apple needs to overhaul the App store – and the solution”
  1. Chad Landman says:

    Right on. I, for one, don’t use my iPhone for fart machines and the like. I actually use stuff like calorie counters, news, facebook, twitter, etc. It’s getting increasingly hard to find decent apps in between the thousand bad ones that no one will buy.

  2. LlamaFragments says:

    The problem with that suggestion is that Apple makes a crapload of money off of every one of those $0.99 apps, just like they do off of every $0.99 song. The $0.99 fart machine apps have made Apple lots of money, while many other $0.99 apps that are better made by “quality” developers aren’t making as much. Apple probably sees no reason to do something similar to what you propose because they make too much money in the current state of the app store.

  3. Rowlings says:

    Apple’s hardware and software have always been about elegance, and streamlined design. It’s a shame the app store is such a pig fuck. I could say the same about the crap music and movies on the iTunes store (that they need to be removed) , but at least you find out about those things elsewhere, and come to iTunes to buy them. The only way to find iPhone apps is really through browsing the store, and no one has the time to sift through. If it isn’t on the front page, I don’t know about it, and I am sure I am missing out on some cool shit.

  4. donn says:

    One idea is to build the iphone simulator from Xcode into iTunes. That way you can download the app, try it out for one or two days, then itunes can prompt you to purchase or delete the app.

  5. pawel_z_wrocka says:

    Your talking USA-centric here, doc. Imagine that in my country an app costs the same (or more, VAT included), but an average pay is some 2-3 times (at least!) lower.

    So we are actually already paying about 3.99.

    No-go for me :-(.

  6. pawel_z_wrocka says:

    Your -> You’re, of course.

  7. kmoth says:

    I’m not an iphone dev or even a business savvy person, i’m talking out of my ass and just throwing an idea out for conversation’s sake…

    What about a submission fee/deposit?

    If devs had to pay up front to submit an app, perhaps they’d be more careful about what they submit. It could even be a deposit system where the dev gets that money back if they manage to sell enough copies.

    If i’m a developer who thinks people actually want customized speed dialer apps, there’s a chance that i’m irrational enough to think its worth a shot and submit the app anyway despite having to charge $4. I mean, what have I got to lose? Producing a piece of rubbish might cost me a weekend’s worth of time, so the risk of submission is practically non-existent.

    As the Doc said, when you think about it, $4 is still a steal no matter how bad the app is.

    On a completely unrelated note: my captcha was: “Woman revealed”
    very nice!

  8. Joe says:

    I have a friend named Shenanigans. I “Call Shenanigans.”

    People like Jerry Beers are the types of uneducated, unoriginal, and greedy philistines that should never have been empowered with the ability to post apps to the App Store.

    I like your proposed solution, Doc, but I’d also like to see some of these fools weeded out by a higher signup fee with Apple and possibly even a per-software submission charge of, say $100. That way people will be more inclined to think twice before clogging up the store with useless dreck. Read: Griffin Landa, whose blatant Pillsbury Doughboy trademark infringement app still resides on the App Store; a quick look reveals the most recent action on that app is a 5-star review by a dubiously-named “Eli Landa.”

    For the sake of quality, Apple must put their thumb in the dike at some point and send these ass clowns back to a platform more befitting of the greed and hideous interfaces they propagate: Windows Vista.

    Jerry Beers: take your dick out of your ear.

  9. alex says:

    I’m no dev either, but…
    couldn’t he make an app in which you can CHOOSE the name to display on the home screen?
    I mean, you buy the app, open it’s preferences (in the iPhone preferences), tipe in your friend’s name and the app turns into a speed-dial icon with the name you want!

    that’s just baddeveloping, isn’t it?
    Or is it the iPhone platform that’s too limited for running apps?

  10. Dave-O says:

    There is already a $100 fee to week out the kooks. This guy thinks he can make that back apparently. I don’t see that raising the minimum price will do any better than what has already been done. Removing apps that don’t sell could be a good idea, but you know they’ll just be resubmitted.

    @alex, you’re talking about dynamically changing the application name, I’m sure you can’t do that.

    @donn, that simulator doesn’t provide an adequate experience (no tilting or shaking for example) for many of the best apps.

  11. Austin Barry says:

    What about filtering – it works for a lot of software sites and doesn’t impose a cost penalty. Perhaps filter by total downloads or average rating, but allow people to counteract a download by giving the app a negative rating, but you have to buy it to give it any sort of rating. Basically if the site becomes clogged with useless crapware, people will avoid it, and everyone loses.

  12. Carlo says:

    I totally agree about this being too US-cetric. While $3.99 or whatever price one gets out of the ass might seem small for US citizens, it is not small to a lot of markets across the world. Mine included. For me, any app beyond $1.99 is already a “think very hard on it” and 99c is already “think it through”. If Apple wants to push the iPhone and iPod Touch all over the world then it must continue supporting 99c apps or else watch the platform crash and burn when it arrives in countries that considers 99c minimum wage. While the price of the hardware is already out of range of minimum wage earners, for those who could afford it (like me), learning that downloading the apps is an additional high cost would be a bummer. If that happens, I expect that any iPhone/Touch that would be sold here (and a lot of other places) would be automatically jailbroken. Does that help Apple or the developers? Raising App prices reduces it’s competitiveness in new markets; turning the platform into another niche product inside the wide world.

    Raising prices is not a solution for that particular problem. It just replaces 99c crap with $3.99c crap, while turning away potential buyers.

    I do agree on a demo period as a better solution to the problem

  13. James says:

    Regarding part 2:

    As a developer I would love the ability to provide a fully functioning time-limited demo of my programs. The only problem is Apple strictly prohibits this (for now). Thus you are seeing some developers (like myself) offering free, reduced-featured, versions of their products.

    But the App Store is evolving, and maybe (hopefully) this will come in the future.

  14. Killer's Dad says:

    $3.99 apps for iPhones? Great idea. Goes well with the idea of a Gas tax that makes gasoline cost $4 no matter what the price. If we charge $4 for gas, people drive less.

    If you charge $3.99 for apps, people buy less.

    But the auto-delete after 3 barren months is a good idea.

    And the 3 launch trial or 10 minute trial is a GREAT IDEA.

  15. Jim says:

    I don’t agree with raising the price on the apps. It goes back to that old saying about putting a dress on a pig – it’s still a pig. Putting a higher price on a piece of shit just makes it an expensive dump that you’ve loaded on your iPhone.

    I do like the idea of a timed demo, but that won’t necessarily slow the glut of shitty uploads.

    As others mentioned here, perhaps a time frame of so many purchases or your off the listing, or pay a fee to list your app. If it’s a winner, that fee will pay for itself. If it’s a tanker, you’ll be more prone to making something viable and useful for the masses.

    This kinda reminds me of the local kids sports programs they run now. They let all kids play instead of cutting the shitty players. Not every kid is a player – not every app is a winner either.

  16. exodus says:

    Skip part 1, i like my 99 cent gems. Part 2 takes care of it though. All apps should be free to try for 5 launches, then you gotta pay. Oh man, the crap developers would be pissed. Haha


  17. jeffrey says:

    The demo mode for all paid applications makes total sense. Palm has been doing this for years.

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