There's no denying the App Store's success. With over 100,000 apps (some of which are actually rather good), there's plenty of choice, and the store's easy to use.
However, Apple's gatekeeper approach, requiring all apps - and even updates to approved apps - to be reviewed manually, can cause headaches.
At best, the process means critical bug-fix updates may take a week or more to reach the store. At worst, an app ends up in limbo, unavailable to the public while a developer tries to convince Apple their app's not doing anything wrong.
Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice-president for worldwide product marketing, recently defended the review and approval process during a rare interview for BusinessWeek, and he claims the vast majority of App Store rejections are down to technical problems, rights infringements, and improper API usage.
However, since the App Store's launch in July 2008, Apple's also made outrageous, strange and flat-out bizarre decisions. Here are some of our favourites.
Simon Maddox's app (opens in new tab) automatically converts 0870 numbers into landline equivalents, leading to cheaper mobile calls. Although currently on the App Store, it was initially rejected, Apple claiming it "circumvent[ed] carrier features and policies".
2. Bobble Rep - 111th Congress Edition
Apple found to its cost that making a MAD artist mad is a mad thing to do. On rejecting the Tom Richmond-illustrated congressional representative bobble-head app (opens in new tab), for the usual 'blah blah blah, objectionable, blah, offensive' reasons, a storm of protest rained on Apple's parade. Apple swiftly changed its tune.
3. Chess Wars
After sitting in the review queue for six weeks, an update to this chess app (opens in new tab) was rejected. Actually, what really happened was nothing at all, and after six weeks the dev ranted online, got some press, and caused Apple to wake up and contact him. And, no, Chess Wars didn't include naked chess piece orgies with machine-gun bloodbaths - its crime was chat bubbles too much like those in Apple's SMS app. Apple's advice: make them "less shiny". We're not kidding.
You'd think a unit conversion utility wouldn't fall foul of an App Store review, especially if several previous versions had made it to the store unscathed - but you'd be wrong. An eagle-eyed reviewer deemed the Convertbot (opens in new tab) Time icon too similar to the Recents icon in Apple's Phone app, and claimed users would get confused. We agree: after all, we often use unit-conversion apps to try and access our recent calls list. The app eventually returned and there was much rejoicing.
Manomio's C64 (opens in new tab) emulates a Commodore 64 home computer from the 1980s. After several slightly dubious rejections due to Apple considering emulators against App Store policy, citing a clause in the SDK agreement that states apps may not "launch other executable code by any means," compromises eventually led to C64's acceptance. It was swiftly booted when Apple discovered you could access C64 BASIC via a workaround and, presumably, use it to hack into the Pentagon. An update is now online and BASICless.
As everyone knows, BitTorrent is the most evil thing, ever. Or so Apple must have decided when it rejected Drivetrain, even though the app's merely a remote for BitTorrent client Transmission. Apple specifically reasoned: "This category of applications is often used for the purpose of infringing third party rights," and so it's a good job all Macs don't come with built-in DVDRs that can be used to, say, infringe third party rights.
A harmless eReader that can only access the text from out-of-print titles on Project Gutenberg. Surely that would be safe from the reviews process? Nope. Someone found Eucalyptus (opens in new tab) could access the text from Kama Sutra, presumably went round screaming "THINK OF THE CHILDREN!", ignored the fact the text was accessible in dozens of other apps, including Safari, and smacked Eucalyptus with the reject-o-hammer. The app was eventually approved, but only with a ridiculous 17+ rating.
8. I Am Poor
A parody of $999.99 app I Am Rich, Catamount Software's I Am Poor (opens in new tab) took a staggering 11 months to be approved. Apple's argument centred around the app not providing user-accessible functionality, and in no way had anything to do with Apple not wanting further press regarding its iffy decision to remove I Am Rich from the App Store.
9. Macworld's iPhone and iPod Touch Superguide
When IDG created a digital app (opens in new tab) for their iPhone and iPod touch guide, little did they know Apple would say no to the app - for having 'iPhone' in its title, despite it, you know, being about the iPhone.
Reportedly the first digital book to be banned by Apple, Murderdrome was in fact a future-sports comic that wouldn't have looked out of place in 2000 AD. Although all Apple apps can now have ratings, Murderdrome remains absent from the App Store.