Monday, February 22, 2010

The 10 most annoying things about the App Store

After trawling through apps in the "New Free" and "Price Drop" categories in the app store I have come to loath the habits of some people who submit apps to the app store. It is hard enough to find what you want but to have it littered with dross is sometimes too much to bear. This is my list of the ten most hated habits of app developers.

  1. Description in the title. This is where the entire title is the description of the app. Let me see if I can provide a hypothetical example, "An app to do something or other over either Wi Fi or 3G but better than any other example - or not *** but especially my competition *** and just to make sure tells you stuff as well" Put it in the description guys.
  2. Descriptions that start off with a page of customer reviews. In a word Who Cares! Get over yourself. I want to know what the thing does not what some buddy of yours was paid to say. If I want to read the reviews I will read them myself. For goodness sake - how hard is it to read the reviews myself. I am not an idiot.
  3. Also, while we are on the subject of descriptions, who cares about what you think of your app. A description is for descriptions, not your inflated opinion of your programming ability. Two paragraphs of how wonderful your app is without actually telling me what it does is a sure fire way of getting me to skip over it and onto the next app. Life is too short to waste my time reading your self adulation.
  4. On the other hand descriptions that tell me nothing about the app. Typically these contain one or two sentences that have no bearing on what the thing actually does. How hard is it to tell us what your app actually does.
  5. Now this next one is really really annoying. Paid apps that change price every one or two days just so that they will make it into the price drop lists. There are a few apps whose price changes like clockwork every day and they are constantly cluttering the price drop list to generate sales. These apps are useless pieces of rubbish and I would not give them the time of day except for the fact that they are irritatingly noisy.
  6. Apps that do not tell me what distinguishes the "Lite" version (free) from the paid (pro or full) version. A very nice app appeared a few days ago in both a paid and free version and I spent quite some time reading both the paid and free descriptions only to find that the descriptions were identical. I then got the free version to try and discovered that the free version lacked some features which were listed in the descriptions of both versions. This is not an isolated example. Detirmining the difference between the free and paid versions is often pure guesswork. Compared to the time put into developing and listing the app it takes hardly any time to get the description right. Please, please clearly indicate what you will be getting extra in the paid app up front so that I know what I am getting and why I would want the paid version.
  7. Automated app generators. This is a fairly new service. You go to the web site, you put in the URL of what you want to be converted to an app, you pay your money and you get the iPhone app. This is nothing more than HTML-App converter. Many of the submitted apps are not even customised further, just submitted as is with bugs and dodgy descriptions. They are really non-apps. Nothing more than you would get by going to their web site. The app store is being bombarded with these dodgy non-apps, up to hundreds per day. This practice has now been banned by Apple but there may still be some apps generated by this method.
  8. Useless screen shots. A single screen shot of a title page is hardly a good selling point for an app. The good news is that I have never really seen a single useless screen shot app that I consider worth buying. It tells me that the developer has so little confidence in their app that they do not want you to see what it actually does.
  9. Keywords missing or wrong. Apple provides keyword searches for app for good reason. If you don't put in the keywords how on earth are people going to find them. I have searched for apps in vain due to the developer not putting in keywords so that they can be found amongst the million plus app in the app store.
  10. Multiple apps in lieu of configuration. Multiple languages, different regions, how many times do you want to submit the same app with just a slight difference? Please get some idea of how to develop an application. If it is one app make it one app. Identical sports apps for each team, the same navigation app for different cities. Do not clutter the store with this rubbish. You have in app purchase, use them. It is not that hard. And for free apps there is absolutely no excuse.
For all that is to love about the app store it lends itself to a level of abuse not seen previously. Of all of the apps in the App Store maybe 90% could be removed immediately without anybody shedding a tear. And of the remainder maybe 10% are worth considering. Apple may think that quantity is a wonderful thing but much has been sacrificed for quality.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why the iPhone is a virus platform waiting to happen

The constant mantra of Mac users that they don't get viruses is nauseating to say the least. Everybody knows that the reason they do not get viruses is not for some technical reason that they are invulnerable but simply because it is not worth the virus makers time. There are far more PCs and why target 10% of the market when you have 90% at your service. In fact in the heyday of the virus developers the share was more like 5% to 95%.

The situation is now reversed with the release of the iPhone. They have a lion's share of the market and not only are these devices popular but they are on all day every day and have 24 hour network access regardless. It is a wonderful resource just waiting to be tapped.

The release of a couple of exploits for jail broken phones was just a toe in the water. "But", I hear you say, "Isn't the iPhone supposed to be fully protected against this type of thing?" "This is what was promised us as being the benefit of having all code personally encrypted by Apple." You would have though so but such is not the case. Do you remember my rant against DRM (Digital Rights Management) and Protected Computing? Well, here is the deal. Whatever schemes people dream of to protect data and systems there are about a million people dedicated to circumventing it. Let me give you an inventory.

Games for the PC, C 64, Atari etc in the 1980s - they were all cracked.

DVD copy protection, cracked.

BluRay copy protection - cracked.

GPRS (digital mobile phone) encryption - cracked.

iPhone app encryption - cracked.

Now some guy has managed to create code that will run on any phone and make the phone think that that code came from Apple. Combine this with the recent issue of people inadvertently selecting an in-app add and the fact that every phone comes from the factory with a standard root password the iPhone is the hackers oyster. It is only a matter of time before exploits are as common for the iPhone as they are for the MS Windows PC.

The con that protected computing is there to protect the consumer is merely a ruse to control the user.