updated 01:50 pm EST, Fri November 6, 2009
App torn apart by one reviewer, OK'd by another
Apple has been criticized once again for its App Store review policies, as Macworld.com complains of frustrating inconsistencies between different members of the review team. The company has worked to publish its first book, the "iPhone & iPod touch Superguide," as both a PDF version and an app available on Apple's portable devices.
After submitting the app to Apple for approval, the first reviewer rejected the app because of a formatting bug. The small issue was reportedly the only objection voiced by the first reviewer, leading the developers to expect approval after it was fixed and resubmitted.
Once the app made it back into Apple's system, however, it was not sent to the original reviewer. The second staff member found a variety of new problems with the app, including the title and logo. The developer was advised to change the title from "iPhone Superguide" to "Superguide for iPhone" to avoid using Apple's trademark as a brand name.
"But here's the problem: Our book isn't named 'iPhone Superguide' because it runs as an iPhone app. It's named 'iPhone Superguide' because it's content about the iPhone," writes Macworld's Jason Snell. "Calling it 'Superguide for iPhone' is not only inaccurate, but it makes it more difficult to sell future Superguide books for iPhone since they'd all be Superguides for iPhone of one sort or other."
The reviewer also claimed the app's icon would have to change, as it included an image of the iPhone. Both the original name and icon were designed to mimic the book's cover, however the App Store rules prohibit representations of the iPhone in any apps.
The developers decided to change the icon but fought to keep the title, considering similar content, such as "iPhone: The Missing Manual," made it through without any problem. "[The reviewer] very politely told us that he wouldn't discuss already-approved apps or allow us to use them as precedents, and that for all we know, his next call would be to David Pogue to demand that he change his app's name, too," says Snell.
After additional compromises failed to reach an approval, Snell published a tweet expressing his anger with the situation. Daring Fireball and Engadget further spread the word. Within two hours, an Apple representative allegedly called and admitted the mistake before greenlighting the app with the original title and icon.
The flagrant difference in subjective opinion between individual App Store reviewers has been frustrating to many iPhone developers. The final representative admitted that Apple is more flexible regarding the trademark rules when considering books and their original titles and names.
Snell suggests Apple could improve the process through additional training for the App Store review staff, or dividing the group into specialized teams more familiar with each subject. "There are lots of other suggestions that many app developers have made, including the radical suggestion of letting the free market work its magic."