The problem with iPhone apps
I have an on-again/off-again love/hate relationship with my iPhone. As the former chief of all-things-design at the world’s largest iPod & iPhone accessory company I really wanted to love the iPhone. However, I migrated from a BlackBerry Curve to an iPhone and have never really been at peace with the iPhone. There are a number of iPhone related issues I have blogged about before here, here and here, so I’m not going to go into it all again here. Instead, I have a few thoughts about the proliferation of iPhone/iPod Touch apps.
Apple has created a pretty awesome software development platform with their App Store. Just about anyone who wants to try their hand at software development can cut their teeth on iPhone apps- and maybe even make a few bucks off of their results. I think that this almost-open-source software development system could be representative of the future of software development as a whole. Kudos to Apple for figuring out how to make it work (both structurally and economically).
Unfortunately, the huge success of the App Store is also its biggest downfall. Since just about anyone can create an iPhone app and get it into the App Store there ends up being a large amount of crap apps clogging up the system. Apple tries to mitigate this with their rating and review system but since most of the reviews seem to be written by semi-literate 12 year olds I find myself more than a little skeptical at the ratings system in general and look to 3rd party sources for hands-on reviews. The problem is that there are so many new apps appearing on the App Store every day that there is virtually no way for the reputable tech blogs to keep up with the reviews. I have been burned by enough poorly implemented, under-performing apps that I have pretty much given up on the whole concept. It’s a shame as I imagine there are a number of apps out there that I would get a lot of benefit from using.
What is missing is a free trial period for paid apps. While $0.99 is not that much to pay to try out an app or two, some of the potentially more useful apps (and games) go for a lot more. Also, even at only $0.99 a pop, three or four screens worth of apps you never use gets expensive real fast. One should be able to download and try out an app for a few days before having to commit to buying it. Apple has enough control over the content on the iPhone that they should easily be able to implement this type of system. They do it with movie rentals.
A further benefit of a trial period would be the ability for app popularity to be rated on purchases and not just downloads. This would provide the much needed credibility missing in the App Store and would likely help separate the worthwhile apps from the junk. Developers who actually create valuable apps would be able to justify charging higher prices for their products based on their credibility. Meanwhile, novelty and junk apps would just end being free like they should be anyway.
Apple never really gives a hoot about what their customers think and I’m sure they don’t give a hoot about what I think now. Oh well. Guess I’ll switch my SIM back over to the BlackBerry for a while.