The PocketGamer.biz Mobile Mavens is our panel of experts drawn from all sectors of the mobile gaming industry.
Last week saw Boyfriend Maker a virtual dating app aimed at young girls exposed for sporting a chat mode that appeared to contain references to violent sexual acts and even paedophilia .
So, we asked the Mavens:
How has Apple's submission and review process evolved for you? Does the sheer number of apps being submitted and updated every week mean it's impossible for Apple to retain control?
The better question for me is: Should Apple do away with the approval process and, instead, have community review?
It can only ever be moderately effective in policing content, and in forcing a review process it is opening itself to criticism from the dev community and slowing development.
I say: Open the App Store up.
While it's true that Apple's review process will never be perfect or flawless, this system is far far better than the completely open process you see on Android.
For legitimate developers, the Apple review time is almost always just a small time lag at the end of development. We rarely get rejected, and for the obvious reasons that we are professionals bringing quality product to the audience.
At the same time, Apple's review process does a great job of filtering out a lot of the cheap, copyright-infringing knockoff apps that are so prevalent on Android. It isn't perfect of course, but it's far better than what Android where you regularly see swarms of apps like all the Temple Run "games" before the official Android release came out.
So I disagree with Will that Apple should do away with the review process.
That said, improvements could definitely be made. Having better insight into review times would be good. Some sort of community review/reporting system that does help capture the trouble apps that slip through would also be good.
Maybe it's because I submitted my first app before the launch of the App Store so I'm just used to everything and have seen the evolution of the process over the years, but overall I think the review system works pretty well and the changes that have been made over the years have smoothed out the roughest parts.
Where the Nokia N-Gage submission process imitated to great pain the cumbersome and expensive submission and certification processes found on consoles, Apple's App Store came straight out of the gates with a submission process that was light and (almost entirely) egalitarian.
The results speak for themselves. Never before has there been such a vibrant and accessible distribution channel for application developers.
But, that was long, long ago, way, way back in 2008, when Nokias roamed the Earth, and time moves quickly - too quickly for developers to be expected to wait two or more weeks for their submissions to clear.
The world is lean: "Build, measure, learn." We work in a free-to-play world where decision-making must be done in minutes and hours, not days and weeks.
We work in a free-to-play world where app developers need those same freedoms afforded to web developers to push product on a dime, to multi-varient test and multi-varient test again.
Apple has the technology; now Apple needs the policy. If Xbox 360 had the policy to support open and instant game development, maybe the console industry would not have taken such a dramatic hit these last few years.
I would like to see anarchy in iOS, but, Apple would probably never let go of the reins completely.
So, I propose a compromise: Certification and submission when an app is first released, laissez-faire after first approval. And, if somebody abuses the freedoms afforded them, we brutally murder them: Time encourages chaos, after all.
The Apple approval process is about as close to the perfect balance as possible: openness combined with enough checks and balances to make sure blatant copyright infringement and inappropriate content doesn't make it out into the ecosystem.
Right now the approval process takes about a week. That's not bad. And it's also pretty painless.
Sure there are some things that Apple doesn't allow into its ecosystem, but developers still have a lot of leeway as far as what they can include in their apps. Our approvals have been incredibly smooth for a while now. I just don't see a problem with it.
Compare Apple to Microsoft and it's like night and day. Even with Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8, it's a pain to get an app through Microsoft's approval process. Also, looking at traditional consoles, getting a digital download approved by Sony, Nintendo, or for Xbox Live is even more of a pain than that.
The other side of the coin is Android, which is a nightmare for a different reason. Sure you can upload a build to Google play and have it available for sale right away, but look at all the malware, blatant clones and really the awful state of monetisation on Android due to the anarchy on that platform.
Anarchy is a nice idea but it would never work in real life and it doesn't work for mobile.
That said, the issue with the Boyfriend Maker app is interesting. I guess people are under the impression that, since the Apple approval process takes a week, someone is actually reviewing your app for a week. It takes a week only because of the queue.
Actual review time is only a couple hours. Maybe a day if it needs to be escalated because the initial reviewer sees something that requires extra review.
A lot of things can be missed with this light of a review process. It's not perfect.
The only way to make it perfect would be to increase the length of time an app is reviewed and as a side effect of that, they would probably need to charge developers money for every app submission to account for the extra manpower.
This flies in the face of what developers want, and Apple needs to strike that balance between making the approval process go as smoothly as possible and doing a minimal amount of reviewing to make sure that the App Store isn't filled with even more cases like the Boyfriend Maker app, or even worse.