Curating an app store: does Apple have it right?

No matter how much market share Android grabs: it is Apple’s App Store that started this app thing rolling. Never forget that OS vendors and phone operators tried to push app stores before Apple came in, but fragmentation, horrible user interaction design, billing issues and perplexing compatibility problems made them a dead loss for most users. Today, Apple’s mobile platform remains the most important one in many sectors.

The trade off with app stores is that you give up freedom of choice (install anything you want from anywhere) in return for a safer and better experience; software installation nasties like runtime dependencies, malware or fake download apps do not exist. At least, that is how it is meant to be, which is why some are so disappointed by Microsoft’s store.

Now Apple has offered us some limited insight into its own curation practice. It has published the top ten reasons for App rejections for the last week in August.

Aside from the generic “more information needed,” the top reason is bugs, and the next two are non-compliance with the developer terms (could mean anything) and user interfaces that are poor or too complex.

Close behind it is another key one:

Apps that contain false, fraudulent or misleading representations or use names or icons similar to other Apps will be rejected

which accounts for the main complaint about some apps that make it into Microsoft’s store.

What Apple does not tell us is the proportion of apps that are approved, either first time, or after one or two revisions.

There is little to argue about in Apple’s list of reasons to reject, except this one:

If your app doesn’t offer much functionality or content, or only applies to a small niche market, it may not be approved.

Apps without content are fair game, but why should small niche markets not be served? It does not bother me if a great app for jellyfish spotters makes it into the store.

The other factor here is that if an app store has enough high quality apps then the bad ones will be hardly visible, other than in search results. Store curation is about presentation as well as content.

Is Apple getting it right? I am not hearing much shouting from developers about the arbitrary or unknown reasons why their app was rejected, which suggests that it is, but it may be I am not listening intently enough.

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3 comments to Curating an app store: does Apple have it right?

  • Bud

    Many developers understand no app stores are perfect. They know the limitations of each store and act accordingly. The key for most developers is if there is a higher probability that they could push their “goods.”

    Apple App Stores actually remind me of a high end shopping mall that attracts a lot of potential buyers. The rent is higher and there are a lot of rules, but you put up with it. Android stores remind me of, well, a bazaar in China. Lots of people, and lots of goods and many of them are questionable in quality.

    The “freedom/choice” debate does not mean much to a business. Besides, I honestly do not think either Google or Microsoft entering the app store space to promote freedom and democracy.

  • Vic Klien

    See also last month’s blog post from Jean-Louis Gassée (former Apple executive):
    http://www.mondaynote.com/2014/08/10/app-store-curation-an-open-letter-to-tim-cook/

    “With one million titles and no human guides, the Apple App Store has become incomprehensible for mere mortals.”

    “…and I’m not just talking about Apple, Android’s Google Play is every bit as frustrating. I see poorly exploited gold mines where quantity obscures quality and the lack of human curation ruins the Joy of Apps. There are caves full of riches but, most of of the time, I can’t find a path to the mother lode.”

  • gary

    Apple’s app store isn’t perfect but its far better than the Play store.

    I find it amazing that what essentially is a ‘search’ company has no way of sorting or provide any useful results (say by popularity, feedback, downloads) of the apps available.