Apple should eliminate their app review process

I took this photo of my :en:iPhone and its SIM...

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After reading a great post from Joe Hewitt I’m going to argue today that Apple should completely eliminate the app store review process.   This goes a step further than previous posts where I have argued that Apple should adopt a more open approach in its management of the iPhone app ecosystem, and be careful about blocking apps from the likes of Google and Spotify.

Joe makes three strong arguments:

  • We shouldn’t be afraid of a a world where anyone can publish an app to your phone.  After all it works pretty well on the web (and my Blackberry and many other devices for that matter), and fears of unscrupulous developers taking control of our iPhones are misplaced as the apps are sandboxed and have “scarcely any more privileges than a web app”.
  • The app review process is about enforcement of their terms of service and not about quality and therefore doesn’t add any value to the consumer or developer.
  • Feedback cycles would get shorter and apps would improve faster if the week long approval process for each new build was eliminated.

In a nutshell Joe’s argument is that eliminating the approval process would bring us iPhone owners better apps more quickly, and without any downside. 

On top of that fact that we would get access to the apps like Spotify and Google Voice that Apple is denying us at the moment.

The rub of course lies in the second bullet, Apple’s terms of service contain the requirement that an app doesn’t duplicate other functionality on the iPhone which gives them carte blanche to block apps which compete with other parts of their business.  To spell it out, Spotify competes with iTunes and Google Voice is a threat to Apple’s cosy carrier relationships.

My point in writing this post is not to revisit the now well rehearsed argument that Apple should let us use our mobile computers in whatever way we choose, but rather to highlight that there is no reason for the existence of the app store approval process beyond helping Apple to promote the interests of its other businesses and partners at the expense of its customers.

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