Choosing a new iPhone carrier can be a cumbersome process. You don’t just have to determine who has the best coverage where you live, but you must also get past each carrier’s skewed marketing. CarrierCompare, a new iPhone app that arrived earlier this month, aimed to change this by helping users compare the signals of different carriers from their precise location.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a story about which carriers provide the best service. Rather, it’s a look at how just how crummy Apple’s app approval process has become.
CarrierCompare – approved, rejected, approved again
According to CNNMoney, Apple recently pulled CarrierCompare from the App Store.
The reason? The app used an application-programming interface (API) that Apple hadn’t approved. The API allowed CarrierCompare to collect signal strength data from iPhones and then pass that information off to users.
Gathering that information isn’t a cut-and-dry no-no per se, but since the code hadn’t received Apple’s thumbs up, it was a no-go.
According to the app’s creator, Boston, Massachusetts-based SwayMarkets, the API code was originally found on a developer forum. Since the company had used the same tool on the company’s previous app, NetSnaps, which Apple approved five months ago, they thought it was fine to use on their latest app.
After being approved by Apple, CarrierCompare rose to the top of the App Store food chain quickly. In fact, it vaulted into the famed “Top 25” list for utility apps soon after CNNMoney praised it, as did AppAdvice.
Once both apps were pulled, SwayMarkets contacted Apple, discussed with them what could be done, and hoped for a quick resolution.
First, the SwayMarkets team grayed-out CarrierCompares’ signal strength meter with a message that said, “coming soon.” When that move failed, the company removed the signal strength altogether, and Apple finally approved that solution this week.
According to SwayMarkets founder Amos Epstein:
We’ve been very cooperative and thankful that Apple kept the free version of the app in the store. It’s been difficult as a developer to not feel supported in trying to help both Apple and consumers. However, I recognize Apple is running a very successful business. It’s a momentary hurdle.
Epstein also opined that he isn’t alone in Apple’s apparent process of approving an app, seeing it go viral, and then being removed “for some previously unforeseen coding goof that Apple later discovered.”
Apple, are you listening?
In the meantime, SwayMarkets is taking the creative route to get signal strength back into the CarrierCompare app. They will now use data collected from their Google Play/Android customers to inform iPhone users of the signal strength data that Apple won’t let it collect. Whether Apple nixes that approach remains to be seen.
Since Apple only took issue with collecting signal strength data — but not displaying that information — SwayMarkets intends to use the Android data to inform iPhone users of the signal strength data that Apple won’t let it collect.
Isn’t it about time Apple gets with the program? While we respect Cupertino’s much publicized stance on making sure the App Store remains “closed,” stories like this suggest some immediate changes need to be made.
For one, Apple needs to make sure to get app approvals (or rejections) right the first time even if this means hiring more reviewers. Second, better communication with developers would be helpful too. As it stands now, many developers, such as SwayMarkets, are being forced to resubmit apps that were previous approved. Many times too they don’t even know why the app was pulled in the first place.
Finally, doesn’t it just feel wrong that an app developer must rely on its Android customers to provide data to iPhone users?