∞ App Store approval process continues to haunt Apple

Apple usually doesn’t have many problems when it launches new products. Clearly, the iPhone App Store approval process is an exception in its long history of releasing products.

That’s not to say the App Store isn’t successful. In fact, it is very successful. The Store recently celebrated it’s one billionth app being downloaded. What’s even more amazing than that is the store has been open for less than a year.

According to iPhone enthusiast site 148Apps, Apple currently has over 47,000 applications available for people to download. That’s a lot of apps.

Sadly, all of the good that Apple has with the App Store is overshadowed by some silly decisions that keep a few perfectly reasonable apps out. It seems the Web is hit with stores every week about yet another app that was refused entry for one reason or another.

Instead of going through the long list of apps affected, let’s take the most recent case involving the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation). Here is an organization that defends consumer rights and there app is rejected because Apple finds the content objectionable.

The app in question is just an RSS reader built by a third-party developer. Unfortunately, one of the parody videos includes an f-bomb in the subtitle. It’s Apple’s choice to not let apps in the store, but it also has to be a level playing field. Currently, it’s not.

The same video that Apple rejected the EFF app for is available through the built-in YouTube app and the Safari Web browser. How can they reasonably reject one app that accesses the same content that their own apps do? They can’t, reasonably.

Another example recently is Eucalyptus, an e-book reader that was rejected because it could access the Kama Sutra. Yet, Safari, Google and other e-book readers on the App Store could access the same thing.

I understand what Apple’s trying to do and it makes sense. Clearly someone has setup a set of guidelines that every app is weighed against when it is submitted. If it’s clean, it goes through, if it’s not, it gets rejected.

However, common sense must rule the day. Someone at Apple has to take the role of being the uber-rejecter. They have to be the one to sit back and say, “okay it can access this content, but so can a lot of the other things we have available.”

Perhaps they already have someone overseeing all of the rejections. Maybe the execs just need to loosen the strings a little bit and give them the leeway they need to do the job.

iPhone OS 3.0 should help in Apple’s pursuit to have non-objectionable apps in the store. Well, sort of–it may make the approval process less cumbersome for Apple. The new operating system will include parental controls for apps that will give users the ability to set limits on what types of apps can be downloaded.

Of course, there are limits to how far you take this too–I assume this is what Apple is struggling with right now.

For instance, Google and Safari can access some pretty horrific content if you search for it. Do I want Apple to open the floodgates and allow porn apps or hate content in the store? Absolutely not. I appreciate the fact my two kids can go on the App Store and shop for apps without worrying about what they download.

That’s where the common sense aspect of App Store approval process has to come into play. I don’t envy Apple the task, but they made themselves the gatekeeper of the App Store, now they have to be fair in carrying out that responsibility.