Ouch

3 June 2010

I had intended this week to be a treatise on the benefits and drawbacks of some of the distributed version control systems I’ve used recently, but instead it has become necessary for me to discuss a series of unfortunate events.

Several weeks ago I happily registered my shiny new business name – Dinosaur Party Software – and contacted Apple to upgrade to a Company developer program in preparation for my upcoming first game. Unfortunately, I was told in no uncertain terms that Apple had changed their policies “on advice from their legal department” and they were no longer accepting ABNs as a proof of company registration, only ACNs. When I pressed further on this, I was told outright that Apple would no longer accept Partnerships or Sole Traders as business entities. I would either have to incorporate (start a corporation, for the low low starting fee of $600+) or live with my own name stuck to my apps.

I don’t even know where to start on this topic. Sole traders, single programmers, teams of motivated hobbyists are the people that made the App Store what it is!! Giving them the finger is tantamount to bending over for Google to take its sweet Androidy time to jam home its share of the market. Certainly it’s moves like this that paint Apple as the new Microsoft.

The next piece of news is that I’ve lost my iPhone. With some sense of irony the universe deemed to remind me how much I suckle at the technological teat of Steve Jobs creativity right at a time when I most despise it. So with a gathering anger, and a hope that I can switch my plan over when the new iPhone gets released, I bought myself an Android phone outright to tide me over until the Jobs-milk runs anew.

Until a new phone gets announced and ends up in my hot little hands though, there’s little way for me to be able to release my game on iPhone in the next few weeks. Development will continue, but I can’t release without proper testing on hardware. The cross-platform code I’ve written will also prove useful for an Android port…or that’s what I was thinking before I stumbled upon something I definitely should have checked earlier: Google isn’t allowing Australian iPhone Developers to release paid apps onto their marketplace. They have no timeframe for when they expect them to be able to. Fuck. Just….just fuck.

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It’s….pretty quiet.  The release day for my app wound up being swamped by more than 40 other apps released in the same category – pushing PlusContact back to page 3.  A miserable position for what was my main hope for visibility on the App Store.  There is an important lesson to be learned from this experience: the Utilities category is a catch-all.  If it’s possible to place an app in a different category, use that as the primary.  Everyone uses Utilities.

Here are some other lessons learned the hard way from my first App Store experience:

/**Read the documentation!**/
I’m in that point in my career where I’ve been using computers for long enough that a lot of documentation is just empty words, and I can pull the meaning out of it a lot faster than it would take to read all the text.  Most dialog boxes I just infer their content from the context they pop up in and the buttons on them.  Well, in this case I missed an important part of the documentation that wasn’t as obvious as I expected, and it gave me all sorts of issues trying to make a beta build.  In future I’ll be more thorough as a skim the documentation :)

/**Reserve the name!**/
My original name for PlusContact was actually “Add Contact”.  A simple name for a simple purpose.  Something Apple doesn’t tell you – people can reserve the names for apps before they even begin working on the program.  This is a brilliant idea for most developers, but it’s been leading to people ‘squatting’ on good app names just in case they feel like developing them later.  The lesson learned: reserve the name on iTunes Connect before creating the project or any assets.

/**Seriously, don’t use the Utilities category!**/
Seriously, don’t use the Utilities category.

I hope this advice helps someone in the long run.  The App store has become much better for us serious developers now that Apple has ended the reign of “essentially the same gallery app with different pictures of girls in bikinis” – suddenly there’s a lot more room to move and be visible in the store – but there’s still a lot of work that developers have to put into getting their app visible and downloaded.

 

P.S. Thank you to all the people who gave my app such lovely reviews.  It was nice to know – even if I wasn’t visible on the front page of anything – that I was the highest rated app of the last 200 that had been released.  Some of you weren’t even my friends – but you can be now :)

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