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Bryan M. Wolfe
| April 7, 2011
Houston, We’ve Got A Problem: When A Good App Goes Bad
Behind every app are hardworking programmers that sometimes don’t get it quite right and send out a faulty update. Unfortunately, Apple’s own app approval process makes resolving these irregularities slow and place well-meaning developers in a direct line of fire of angry customers. Shouldn’t there be a better way? Lose It! by FitNow is a best-selling app in the App Store. Recently, it submitted to Apple an update that included a serious bug. Unfortunately, even though they recognized the error before Apple actually approved the update, FitNow could do nothing to stop it from being released to the general public. Naturally, customers downloaded the bad update, which lead to negative reviews in iTunes. Plus, FitNow probably lost some customers forever. Could this situation have been avoided? Not under Apple’s current approval process. Getting An Update Out When developers have an app update ready for the App Store, they must follow the same archaic system used when submitting a new app. First, they submit the update to Apple using iTunes Connect and wait. About one week later, Apple gets around to approving the app and publishes it in the App Store. Once the update is published, it is the only copy of the app available for customers and all previous app versions are no longer available. For most consumers, installing app updates is a quick and mechanical experience. Users enter the App Store and click on Updates. If updates are available, most users update them all at the same time without additional thoughts. This is especially true when the iPhone/iPod touch or iPad is connected to a Wi-Fi connection, and updates are downloaded and installed quickly. Only after running one of the updated apps, does a customer recognize a bad update has been installed. At that point, the customer is fuming and many will leave negative comments in the App Store. Suddenly, an app’s position is jeopardized, as is the company behind it. Unfortunately, in the case of Lose It!, the developers knew about the problem even before the update was present in the App Store, and could do nothing to stop it from being published. Resubmit Currently, developers have two methods to resolve issues of bad updates. And neither is very good. First, they can submit another update to iTunes Connect, which is what FitNow did. Regrettably, like the first update, it isn’t published for at least one week. In the interim, the bad update remains in the App Store. Second, the developers may include text to the “What’s New” section of their app’s Apple Store page. FitNow, for example, recorded a strong message indicating its customers “NOT” upgrade to the current version. [caption id="attachment_159495" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Please Read This: Don't Download This Update"][/caption] Unfortunately, most users probably don’t read this section. Instead, they download the update like they always do. The process needs to change Should Apple give developers more options to fix bugs in their apps? Absolutely. For example, there should be a way for developers to restore an earlier version of an app, specifically in cases such as this. At the minimum, Apple needs to find a way to address buggy apps and have a way to replace them immediately, when alerted by the app’s developer. While we understand Apple has been improving their App Store submission process since it’s inception, more work is needed. As it stands, the integrity of very good apps can immediately be shattered because of one lousy update. After all, the negative ratings remain in the App Store forever. And for small developers just trying to get a footing in the App Store, it could destroy them. What are your thoughts? Leave your comments below. Note: Users should refrain from downloading the current version of Lose It! A new update is coming.