I’m also not saying that Apple’s tight control doesn’t have advantages for Apple, and for its users. It’s great that people can feel safe downloading things from the App Store. But feeling safe only goes so far when every visit to the App Store makes you feel depressed because the store is overflowing with useless, unsupported crap that crowds out all of the good apps, and when many apps that you download turn out to be manipulative Skinner boxes intent on turning you into one of the unfortunate whales who spend vast amounts of money on pointless in-app purchases.
If design is how it works, then rules that restrict what you can do with a device are part of its design. The App Store review guidelines, and the often inexplicable rules that reviewers actually use when deciding who’s in and who’s out, are just as much part of the design of the iPhone as its chamfered edges. If you restrict what your device can do in a way that directly or indirectly prevents your users from using the device in a way that would be desirable to them, your design has failed these users.
Apple’s rules have created a situation where fear of rejection pushes developers away from the platform, or, if they do support it, incentivizes them to release apps that are unlikely to be rejected, do not require large investments of time so that the loss is small if they are rejected, and can compete in a market that is overwhelmed by manipulative crap.
Commoditizing apps and tightly controlling the market for apps on iPhones benefits Apple, and many of its users, in the short run. But in the long run, an unhealthy software ecosystem can’t be good for Apple, for its users, or for the developers who write apps for Apple’s platforms.
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