Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.


Cabel Sasser of Panic has written a short post officially announcing that Transmit for iOS is dropping support for send-to-iCloud Drive, and, collaterally, send-to-several-other-services-on-the-same-sheet. The gold is in the comments, though; an addendum of sorts from Sasser:

Speaking for myself: when we get a call from the App Review Bad News Guy — a very nice guy with a very terrible job — we know we’re in for a difficult few weeks. We haven’t shared, and likely never will share, most of those stories. To be clear, we always work all of the angles available to us to keep our software great, and there’s no doubt there are countless great people at Apple who are doing wonderful work and want the best for all developers. But we have to remember Apple is now a massive organization with countless divisions — the App Review team isn’t even in Cupertino, for example — and sometimes that means the wheels turn slowly or the car, well, drives backwards. It’s hard to describe the legitimate emotional toll we feel when we’re angry or frustrated with a company we love so deeply. But then we realize it’s never Apple we’re frustrated with. It’s always the App Store.

Apple is a fucking massive company; internally, though, it’s been famously described as “the world’s biggest startup”. I don’t think it’s naïvety but rather a sense of optimism that has kept it humming as a gigantic startup, but the widening gap between that and the giant company that it is has become most apparent to developers through the App Stores.

There doesn’t appear to be a common understanding of what rules the app reviewers should be focusing on, or even what rules exist — as far as I can tell, there’s no written rule that prohibits what Transmit was doing here. The lack of consistency is especially frustrating for developers. They become increasingly unsure of how much effort they should invest in features that shouldn’t be controversial. They don’t know if they’re the next ones to be rejected for some feature while dozens of other apps remain on sale with a similar feature.

In this particular case, I don’t understand what Apple gains by having Panic remove their export to iCloud Drive feature. I don’t understand what Apple or their users would lose — financially, morally, ethically, or in any other way — by allowing Transmit to retain this feature. If anything, this entices people to use iCloud Drive.

Meanwhile, there remain apps available in the Store that continue to push out notification spam or have atrocious user interfaces, both of which are explicitly prohibited by the review guidelines.1 Both of these rule violations directly impact users’ experience with the platform, yet issues of this nature are not treated nearly as seriously. Why, for example, is there no way to report apps that send excessive or spam notifications?

We all want Apple to do better here. It’s not about the (bloody) ROI, nor should it be. It’s just an issue of user and developer satisfaction, both of which are being toyed with in inconsistent and frustrating ways. That’s it.

And am I the only one who wishes for a book of stories from development hell?

  1. 5.6 Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind,” and “10.6 Apple and our customers place a high value on simple, refined, creative, well thought through interfaces. They take more work but are worth it. Apple sets a high bar. If your user interface is complex or less than very good, it may be rejected”. And, arguably, “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”. ↩︎