Developing iOS apps can be a rewarding and, for some, extremely lucrative exercise. But life isn't always easy for developers building iOS apps and distributing them through Apple's App Store, particularly when things go wrong.
Dozens of developers are being reminded of that today after an App Store issue began causing their apps to crash when users try to launch them.
Marco Arment, the developer behind the Instapaper app, became aware of the problem after an update to his app was approved by Apple:
Last night, within minutes of Apple approving the Instapaper 4.2.3 update, I was deluged by support email and Twitter messages from customers saying that it crashed immediately on launch, even with a clean install.
This didn't make sense obviously, Apple had reviewed it, and it worked for them. My submitted archive from Xcode worked perfectly. But every time I downloaded the update from the App Store, clean or not, it crashed instantly.
After some sleuthing, he discovered that the App Store was apparently serving up corrupt binaries for applications recently updated, causing them to crash on launch. After making some noise, the problematic version of his app was replaced. Arment has not yet received an email from Apple, so he doesn't know if his emails to Apple and complaints on Twitter were what did the trick, but in any case, given his experience, he's advising other developers with non-critical app updates to hold off on releasing them until there's confirmation that the issue has been resolved.
Unfortunately, for developers already hit by this apparent App Store bug, which includes makers of popular apps like Angry Birds Space, Huffington and Tap Sonic, downloaders/customers who experienced launch crashes may not be so forgiving as there is no way they could know that the source of their frustrating experience was Apple, not the crashing applications themselves. That, in turn, could result in negative complaints on sites like Twitter and, more worryingly, negative App Store reviews.
Which highlights one of the perils of the App Store: not only do developers not own their customers, they don't even know who the vast majority of them are. While developers like Arment, GoodReader and Readdle can try reach out to their customers via their websites and blogs, the lack of customer data from Apple leaves them unable to do something far more effective: send an email to everyone they know would have been affected.
That, in turn, leaves those developers at the mercy of Apple, which as of this moment, hasn't yet responded publicly about what's going on.