Apple Cracking Down on iPhone Apps Built Using App Generators?

BY Jason

Published 7 Mar 2010

WiFi stumbler apps purged from app store

After removing iPhone apps with sexual content and banning Wi-Fi stumbler iPhone applications, it looks like the iPhone App review team is cracking down on “cookie-cutter” applications.

“Cookie-cutter” applications are iPhone apps that are built using app generators. App generator provide users with tools to make an iPhone app, even if they don't have any programming experience.

Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch who spoke to many developers reports:

Apple doesn’t appear to be opposed to ‘app generators’ and templates per se, but in the last month or so it has started cracking down on basic applications that are little more than RSS feeds or glorified business cards. In short, Apple doesn’t want people using native applications for things that a basic web app could accomplish. For some of these services that’s bad news, because that’s exactly the sort of application they produce; any new applications they submit are going to get rejected. But all hope isn’t lost for them, provided they can make their apps more useful.

It looks like Apple is working with the developers to address their concerns instead of removing such iPhone apps from the App Store like they did for iPhone apps with sexual content.

They also seem to be working with app generators. For example: Appmakr, that helps developers build iPhone apps is apparently making changes to their service based on suggestions from Apple. They plan to bring the following features to iPhone apps built using their tools:

  • In-app purchases

  • Instant notifications

  • Offline access

  • Landscape viewing modes

According to Eric Litman, CEO of Medialets:

This is the ongoing balance point between encouraging innovation and growth on one side and wanting to tightly control user experience on the other. Apple wants iPhone apps to be superior to Web experiences because they are extremely sticky and drive people specifically to buy the iPhone over competing smartphone platforms. Apps that are too simple or largely indistinguishable from the Web, other apps or particularly other apps on other platforms send the message to end users that the iPhone app ecosystem might not be particularly special.

Now the challenge for Apple is that the app building platforms are extremely attractive to a wide swath of the market that would otherwise be reluctant to bear the cost and complexity of developing an app from scratch. We have already seen apps from personal bloggers up to major media brands using some of these platforms, and many of the folks in that spectrum have content Apple would certainly want in the App Store. Interestingly, some of those same developers also have fully custom-built apps in the App Store, too.

So what are the platforms to do about the recent crackdown from Apple? There’s really only one choice if they want to continue to exist on the iPhone: invest in building out considerably more flexibility into their platforms to allow each app to differ from the others they build. Integrate more features and take the time to nail the design and UI elements to be representative of what Apple wants to see in every app.

For better or worse, Apple will be looking more closely at apps from the platforms than from individual developers. AppLoop, the first startup to announce and iPhone-specific app builder, is already gone. Others will almost certainly follow.

I think this is a good move by Apple. It doesn’t make sense for users to pay money for iPhone apps (even if it is $0.99), which essentially show content from an RSS feed that can be read for free using iPhone’s Safari browser.

Let’s hope it results in higher quality iPhone apps and reduces the clutter in the App Store, which already has more than 160,000 iPhone apps.

What do you think about Apple’s crackdown on such “cookie-cutter” applications?

[via TechCrunch]