Scott Sykora and Eugene Kaneko are the creators of Web Albums HD (App Store, $2.99), an iPad application that accesses photos saved to Google's Picasa Web albums. The software was initially rejected from the App Store, Sykora said, because it employed the pinch to expand gesture to "peek" at photo albums, in the same manner as Apple's own native Photos application for the iPad.
Sykora said Apple's application programming interface in the iPhone OS software development kit does not provide a way to do the gesture, so he and Kaneko coded it themselves. The feature was even demonstrated in a promotional video the developers created for Web Albums HD through the iPad SDK.
"When we submitted it to Apple, we were stunned by their response," Sykora said. "Apparently the tap and pinch to expand is only for native Apple apps."
When the application was initially rejected from the App Store, Apple sent a letter to the developers noting that the pinch to expand feature is "associated solely with Apple applications." The form letter-like e-mail also mistakenly named another application, leading Sykora to assume that Web Albums HD is not the only software that has been rejected for its use of pinch to expand.
"After a few vague follow-up e-mails, we learned the 'update appropriately' meant removing the feature completely," he said. "We removed the pinch expand, leaving just the tap to expand. We were approved but ended up having an inferior product."
In addition, earlier this week, Instapaper and Tumblr developer Marco Arment noted that Apple's own App Store application, iBooks, relies on a number of private APIs not available to third-party software developers. He said his software cannot have a "true brightness control," even though it is featured in the iBooks application.
"This app's undocumented API use wouldn't pass the App Store submission process, yet developers need to compete with it for App Store attention," Arment wrote. "One of the great potential failures of an app-review system is inconsistent or unfair enforcement of the rules."
Criticism of the App Store and Apple's strict control of it has been a constant topic of scrutiny among developers, users and pundits alike. Last summer, stories of long delays and a lack of communication on Apple's part inspired Apple executive Phil Schiller to personally respond to some pundits and developers. The public moves were uncharacteristic of Apple, which is notorious for being a quiet, secretive company. But as bad publicity continued to grow, Schiller felt compelled to personally intervene.
Earlier this year, Apple streamlined its review process for the App Store, resulting in much faster turnaround times for developers. But the launch of the iPad has led to an influx of applications being submitted to the App Store, with developer interest nearly tripling after the product was announced in late January.
Sykora said he is hopeful that Apple can improve its approval process in the future to communicate better with developers such as himself when they are waiting for the App Store approval process.