Apple did a great job convincing developers that they needed to create applications and submit them in time for the iPad App Store grand opening. The indie developers that did create new applications or port their existing applications to the iPad are generally very disappointed with how Apple really dropped the ball this past weekend with the release of the iPad. You might say, what are you talking about, I saw Apple say here that there are “over 1000 new apps made just for the iPad”! That is great, or is it? Oh, that is very true!
The Visibility Fail
The problem is that unless you are one of the fortunate few that has an application in the “New and Noteworthy” or “What’s Hot” lists your application is probably not even going to be found or sell a single unit. This is a worse problem then we have with the iPhone and at least developers have the opportunity to get “some” visibility in the vast sea of iPhone applications. The only way someone will find your iPad application, if it was not featured, is by keyword searches. This is great, but in reality the keyword searches are not the primary way a developer generates sales, being on a list is.
The other issue is that there are more apps in the game category than any other category (~720 by my calculation as of the morning of 4/3). Apple addressed this issue on the iPhone with the addition of sub-categories in the parent game category. The iPad App Store doesn’t even offer you a way to select a sub-category. The iPad App Store literally lets you view the featured applications and then there is a very obscure way that you can view the top 100 overall games, but again most users will not even know how to get to that screen. This seems like a very shortsighted view by Apple and really disappoints all of the developers that helped Apple achieve that “over 1000 apps” quote that they are so proud of.
The Review Process Fail
I am also very disappointed with the review process for the new iPad apps. Apple provided detailed information and time frames that a developer must follow in order to submit their application in time. As expected developers followed this guide as told and that is when everything began to fall apart!
The initial review process had developer build their application using the iPhone SDK 3.2 beta 5, since the GM Seed was not available. That meant that an application would go through the initial review process compiled with the beta 5 SDK and then receive some early feedback on any changes that needed to be made. Tomato Factory submitted Sheeple HD well before any of the deadlines and was one of the many developers that never received any feedback, other than a very generic email that many developers received at the same time stating that their application runs on the iPad and it is now to to compile using the GM Seed version of the SDK and resubmit their application for the final review. This was the first thing that made me think the review process was not going very well.
I think there were many developers that were giving themselves high-fives at this point and felt confident that things were aligning! Apple forgot to tell the developers how to upload their recompiled applications and that is where things really started to fall apart! There was about 8-10 hours where developers were freaking out as they didn’t know if they should submit a new application or reject the binary they already had uploaded and upload the new binary. After much waiting Apple finally told the developers that the correct procedure was to submit an update if you had an update button or reject and upload the new binary if you did not have an update button. So what do you think everyone did at this point? Everyone rejected their application binary with no problem and then attempted to upload their new binary. There was one small problem. You couldn’t.
When a developer attempted to upload their new binary they would receive an error message saying there was a general I/O error. This took Apple another ~3-4 hours to fix. Keep in mind this is on 3/30 and the final deadline to resubmit 3.2 GM Seed compiled binaries was on 3/31 and there were developers from all over the world trying to meet this deadline.
With the I/O error fixed and all of the developers able to upload the binaries things seemed like they were moving ahead again. That is when the worst of the waiting began. I truly believe that Appple did not anticipate as many developers submitting iPad applications and it just took longer than expected to review all of the applications. Sheeple HD was approved the evening of 3/31, so I rested easy until the iPad was released on Saturday feeling that everything was in order and ready for the grand opening.
The Physical Fail
When Saturday rolled around I was finally able to test Sheeple HD on an actual iPad and I was very disappointed by two issues that I found, but why had Apple never notified me about these two very obvious issues? Can you see any problems in the screenshot below?
There was also an issue with selecting a level from the level selection screen and the selection being too sensitive. This results in it sometimes taking multiple taps in order to select a level. This is all a result of things working as they should in the simulator, but not having access to test on an actual physical device. It is disappointing that the quality of the Apple review process was so poor since that is what they were suppose to be doing for us developers that did not have a physical iPad, testing the app on the iPad. This is exactly why I never use the simulator while developing and iPhone application, it just isn’t the same as the physical device.
I don’t want to say that Apple isn’t doing a great job in general and I am sure that they had their hands full these past 2-3 weeks. The iPad is an incredible device and has a lot of potential. I simply wish Apple had taken the time to follow through with their pitch to the developers on why we should create iPad applications for the launch. I hold the opinion that indie developers have made the App Store as successful as it is today and it is too bad that Apple has lost sight of that and instead only the most popular kids get attention!
UPDATE: I spoke with one of the editors from a very well known iPhone game review site yesterday who said there are many other iPad apps that do not run correctly on the physical iPad device.