Apple rejected my iPhone App, and I’m glad

by on September 28, 2009 · 134 comments

One of the projects I run is OpenRegs.com, an alternative interface to the federal government’s official Regulations.gov site. With the help of Peter Snyder, we recently developed an iPhone app that would put the Federal Register in your pocket. We duly submitted it to Apple over a week ago, and just received a message letting us know that the app has been rejected.

Action IconThe reason? Our app “uses a standard Action button for an action which is not its intended purpose.” The action button looks like the icon to the right.

According to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, its purpose is to “open an action sheet that allows users to take an application-specific action.” We used it to bring up a view from which a user could email a particular federal regulation. Instead, we should have used an envelope icon or something similar. Sounds like an incredibly fastidious reason to reject an application, right? It is, and I’m glad they can do so.

As a developer, it’s a little frustrating that we now have to find a new icon, resubmit the app, and likely wait another couple weeks for such a small thing. As an iPhone user, though, I’m glad Apple is manning the quality control station. It’s precisely Apple’s seeming capriciousness that has made the iPhone such a success. Consumers know that the iPhone and its apps “just work.” No other platform has ever “just worked” as well, and third-party apps for open platforms like Windows Mobile tend to be typified by user interface abominations.

I’m grateful there are open platforms like Android out there that will compete with Apple. And I’m grateful there are developers who will make use of these platforms to give us extreme uses of tech that would never make it into Apple’s cozy padded-wall-land. But as a matter of policy, we’re all better off letting Apple behave like a perfectionist chef that doesn’t allow salt at his tables. You don’t have to eat at the restaurant–there are lots of others–but you’ll probably be glad if you do.

Cross-posted from Surprisingly Free. Leave a comment on the original article.

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