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Updates on Apple / PhoneGap

Things have been busy over the past few days, which is the reason why I haven’t had a chance to post about this until now. But for the PhoneGap community, I have some good news and some bad news.  First, the good news: I got a phone call from the Apple app reviewer that was reviewing my test app.  And before I go any further, I want to say a few things.

When I crafted my original letter to Apple, I was very cautious how I wrote it, because I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression. I don’t have any problems with Apple or the fact that they have an app review process. I actually think the strict regulations Apple has with its review process is a good thing for users. If left to their own devices, app developers would release anything and everything whether it had merit or not, in the hopes of earning even a tiny bit of a buck.

That’s not to say that I have nothing but a big warm and fuzzy feeling for the review process, just that it’s like going to the dentist. It’s painful, but you’ll thank them later in life when your teeth would otherwise be falling out – or, in the case of the App Store review process, when the app store would otherwise be overrun with endless seas of buggy and non-functional crap.

Most developers out there seem to vilify the app reviewers, making them out to be legions of sadistic bureaucrats who like nothing more than to waste developer’s time. I’ve never been comfortable with that, because people simply don’t work that way. The app reviewers don’t have an easy job.  They’re not developers, they don’t know how to write apps, they just review them to ensure they meet the guidelines Apple sets forth.

So when they reject your app, it’s not because they’re out to get you, they’re just enforcing policy.  If they make some assumption about your app, perhaps you’re not giving enough information to help them along?  There’s a comments field that you can use to help the reviewer of your app do their job, instead of throwing an app over the fence and saying “Here, take that”.  They don’t owe you anything, and are simply making sure that they cover their asses.  Could you imagine how bad it looked on the guy who reviewed the “Shaking Baby” app? I’m not sure if he lost his job, or just got seriously reprimanded, but this is the sort of thing these guys are trying to prevent.  But because of the black-box nature of the whole process, it’s easy to jump to conclusions.

Finally, before I dig into the meat of my conversation with my App Store app reviewer, I want to point out a few things that many developers seem to have forgotten in their haste to get their apps released:

1.    The app store is a voluntary process; you don’t want to play by their rules, you don’t have to.
2.    All developers signed an agreement that states Apple can choose to reject any apps they want based on their own reasons. There’s no human right’s violations committed when Apple decides that your app isn’t fit for the store for some reason.
3.    Apple is a business, whose goals are to advance their stock and market position for their investors. While some of Apple’s decisions may seem confusing from outside the black box, keep in mind that they are prone to keeping secrets until they throw down their big announcements at whatever annual conference they’re attending. So there are sometimes more reasons why they wouldn’t want some feature leveraged by app developers if they plan to do something much the same themselves. Is it fair? No. Is this what they’re doing? I have no idea, this is speculation on my part.

Now that I have that out of the way, I’d like to relate to you my conversation with Steve from the App Store.

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Build process experiments with PhoneGap

I’ve made some quick updates on the train this morning, and ended up creating a Bourne shell script in the iPhone directory of PhoneGap for renaming a brand-new PhoneGap fork to whatever your project is called. This also works with the previous changes I made to my buildprocess branch, meaning that when you’re done, you shouldn’t have any references to PhoneGap in your code at all. It also makes developing quite a lot easier, since renaming my XCode project file by hand is cumbersome, and needs to be done every time I start a new project.

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