Apple Opens Up iOS Development Process

Apple has made significant changes to its iOS development guidelines, in addition to providing guidance to developers on how to give their apps the best chance of being accepted into its App Store.

In a statement released today, Apple said it would let developers work with non-Apple-approved tools, which should be music to app developers' ears. Stated Apple:

"...We are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need."

iOS is the operating system used by the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Although Apple did not give any further rationale for the move, it could be interpreted as a response to Google's exploding Android mobile development platform, which allows developers to use whatever tools they like. Android just moved ahead of iPhone in worldwide smartphone market share, and is No. 1 in North America.

The announcement is also a direct about-face from an April announcement barring the use of third-party programming tools. Apple did not give an explanation for the U-turn, other than to say that "We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart." Simon Judge, a mobile application developer, agreed. In an e-mail response, he said he believes that Android's success played a part, but that it was "also a result of pressure from iPhone developers and tools vendors."

"It removes some uncertainty and risk when developing for iPhone," Judge explained. "Previously, you were developing an app, at risk, without any knowledge of the criteria against which it was going to be judged."

In addition to relenting on the use of unsanctioned development environments, Apple published "App Store Review Guidelines," which provides blunt, even graphic, advice on ways to get an app through the often capricious App Store approval process. The guidelines are available only to registered Apple developers, but several sites, including Daring Fireball, have posted relevant portions. Some of the key suggestions from the guide include the following:

  • We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don't need any more Fart apps.
  • If your app doesn't do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.
  • If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you're trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don't want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.
  • If your app is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.

Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber called the guidelines "a very welcome change," adding that "it goes a long way to answering much of the criticism regarding prior controversial App Store rejections, by putting in writing the rules that are actually used by the reviewers."

Judge was less convinced of the overall impact of the guidelines, though. "Apple is also reserving the right to reject apps that are 'not very useful' and those that are 'primarily marketing materials or advertisements.' This latter one is interesting as it represents many apps," he stated.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.