Thursday, June 3, 2021

Apple Developer Relations

Marco Arment (tweet, Hacker News):

Apple’s leaders continue to deny developers of two obvious truths:

  • That our apps provide substantial value to iOS beyond the purchase commissions collected by Apple.
  • That any portion of our customers came to our apps from our own marketing or reputation, rather than the App Store.

For Apple to continue to deny these is dishonest, factually wrong, and extremely insulting — not only to our efforts, but to the intelligence of all Apple developers and customers.


Update (2021-06-04): Jesper:

Epic’s inability to use another payment processor is just a symptom of the same disease. Beyond the mobility of huge companies, it affects the everyday lives of developers and customers as being users – this is where we live, and Apple are not being reasonable stewards of this community.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Update (2021-06-07): Riccardo Mori:

I’ve purchased or downloaded apps from the App Store since the beginning, and I can confirm everything Arment says.

Becky Hansmeyer:

There’s a cloud hovering over Apple Park again, and it’s not just the pandemic. It’s bruised developer relations. It’s alleged anti-trust violations. It’s App Store scammy-ness. It’s the weight of a million different expectations and quibbles, from “make the iPad more like the Mac” to “let the iPad be an iPad,” from pro hardware announcements to satisfy developers, to hints of an augmented reality revolution to satisfy those hungry and excited for the post-staring-at-screens era.

Nick Statt (tweet):

Apple will host its second all-virtual Worldwide Developers Conference starting Monday, giving the iPhone maker its annual opportunity to showcase upcoming changes to its software platforms and maybe some new hardware, too. But more important than in years past is that Apple communicates it cares about developers and actively wants to make their lives easier.


“For me, it seems very clear that Apple thinks it owns the platform and the users, and thus can demand whatever it wants from developers with little to no recourse available to said developers,” Troughton-Smith said. […] “The Tim Cook testimony on the final day really rubbed developers the wrong way, when it seemingly became clear that Apple views the App Store as a way to monetize its IP and that if they had to give up control, they would find some other way to squeeze developers for what they ‘owe,’” Troughton-Smith said. “It feels like a toxic relationship, and is dramatically asymmetrical: Developers bend over backwards to fit within Apple’s ever-changing rules, knowing Apple can end their businesses overnight.”

Dan Moren:

Usually, the hours before Apple’s keynote event are filled with speculation and excitement, but this year there is far more frustration and antipathy than I can remember seeing in my decade and a half covering Apple. There’s always been some degree of dissatisfaction, especially amongst developers, but it’s hard to escape that the current story about Apple is less about its products and more about its attitude.


Update (2021-06-13): John Gruber:

What’s weirdest about Apple’s antitrust and PR problems related to the App Store is that the App Store is a side hustle for Apple. Yes it’s earning Apple $10+ billion a year, and even for Apple that’s significant. But it’s not Apple’s main business by a longshot. To my knowledge no company in history has ever gotten into antitrust hot water over a side business so comparatively small to its overall business. Apple doesn’t need this.


I don’t think the developers are wrong, but even if they are wrong, it’s not good for Apple that they’re so unhappy, and feel so aggrieved. It’s not good for Apple that developers don’t see the App Store as a platform that works in their interests.

Cory Zanoni:

Of the 57 apps on my phone, only two are App Store recommendations[…]


I’ve bounced around Android phones for a while but never stuck with one as my main phone for long. I struggle to find apps I like using. Meanwhile, it’s apps that brought me to iPhones and apps that keep me there.

On The Talk Show, Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak respond to Arment, calling his sentiments “bizarre” and “not founded in reality.” It’s too bad they were so dismissive, because his views are widely held and grounded in specific things that Apple has done and said in the last few years. One could argue that developers have misinterpreted these, but calling the inferences crazy is not going to convince anyone.

7 Comments RSS · Twitter

The App Store is garbage. I have over 200 apps on my iPhone and less than 1% were found via searching on the App Store. Apple deserves a 10% fee for payment processing and subscription management, and not a cent more. To say that the other 20% is paying for API development or whatever other bogus costs is disingenuous as long as they let free apps exist which use the same resources but pay nothing. Plus their costs have nothing to do with the cost of an app, so why is it a percentage at all? If I sell a $50 app, does that mean I'm using more of Apple's resources vs a developer who sells a $1 app? No.

Beatrix Willius

And Apple probably still thinks that we developers all lurve their stinky, crappy review process.

For me the AppStore sales don't matter too much because the AppStore version is heavily castrated and is just meant as clickbait.

I honestly cannot remember the last time I found a valuable app solely through discovering it in the App Store. App Store discovery has long been poor, and like nearly all of Apple’s software over the last decade, it’s only worsened.

Not only is app store discovery poor, but oftentimes when I search it, many of the top results are obvious scams!

Words cannot express the loathing I have for Apple as of recent. I used to be on board with a walled garden approach to the app store, figuring that it would keep the riffraff out and that it would be a net positive. It does no such thing. There's no upside, only downside, and tons of it. And it, along with Apple's lacking APIs, has hampered the full potential of iOS and now iPadOS to such a terrible degree. So many potentially useful apps are just kept out for no reason. That combined with the generally increasing bugginess of the platform means that I will probably not buy an iPhone for my next phone. I'd much rather have a device that I can get to work the way I want, even if its UI is kludgier and slower.

And don't even get me started on macOS. The whole platform is on fire and falling out of the sky in a tailspin.

Old Unix Geek

The "quality" of their documentation actually tells the story very well. You want to do that? Use our framework. It doesn't do what you want, well, that's your problem. No, we won't give you the specs. Use our framework.

I really believe that if Apple just allowed developers to use whatever payment method they wanted this entire problem goes away. But they prefer customer hostile policies because reasons.

Somehow they either have the hubris to think that the platform-ISV relationship isn't as symbiotic as it always has been, or they think they need to have consistent internal messaging to that effect.

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