If it wasn’t apparent prior to last week, our big announcement on Friday should make it crystal clear. At StatSheet we think differently about how to do things. It dates back to me creating 650 Twitter accounts and the fallout that ensued (and Twitter later switching their position).
Now it is Apple.
We wanted to create iPhone apps for all of our sites in the StatSheet Network…all 345 of them. We talked to a bunch of iPhone users and the predominate response we got back is that when they are looking for an app, the first thing they do is go searching for it in the App Store. If you want to find a UNC Basketball app, you’d search on the term UNC Basketball. You don’t go search for a term like “College Basketball” and hope to find your team.
Also, having each team with its own app means we could customize the app to make it very specific to the team. The app icon could be our robot dressed up like the team’s mascot. The colors could be customized, etc. While you can do some of that with one app, it is definitely less than ideal.
So we went about creating 345 apps (or rather StatSheet’s Adam Rawlings did) and started submitting them. We got one approved, but after that a bunch got rejected (this took about 3 weeks). They told us we should use their “In-app purchase” feature to customize the app to a specific team, which obviously has all the drawbacks of a single app. So I escalated through Apple’s app review process. I laid out what I thought to be an articulate summary of why I thought the best user experience was to have an app per team.
Tonight I got a call from someone on the App Review team telling me my request has been denied. In fact, he said they’ve become much more strict about this issue over the last 6 weeks. The fundamental flaw in my logic was that I view the App Store as the primary discovery service for finding apps. This seems like a no-brainer to me. Where else do you go if you are trying to find iPhone apps?? Turns out Apples doesn’t view it that way. The Apple rep told me the App Store is NOT intended to help developers get awareness for their apps. It is simply a mechanism to facilitate the download/purchase of apps. He said they are not trying to be Google in terms of helping people find apps. He said that developers are responsible for driving awareness of their apps, not Apple.
Wow. I was a little blown away. Clearly, Apple also thinks differently about how to do things too. The problem in this case is that their mentality around the App Store is seriously flawed. Sure, if you are ESPN, you can drive awareness of your mobile apps. Heck, I’m sure people go to the App Store to search for “ESPN”. What about less well known companies, like maybe StatSheet? What sucks about Apple’s policy is now I have to create a single app to support every team, but I can’t even put every team’s name into the app description (which has a character limit) so that it is discoverable!
But what about all the clutter?!?! Having an app per team (or per insect as the Apple rep used in an example) would cause all sorts of “clutter” in the app store. This was a similar argument that I heard when I started submitting Chrome extensions last year for every team. STOP! You are going to clutter up the extension gallery! I’m sorry people, but in this day and age, do you really think putting artificial limits on what should be considered an app is really a smart move? It is better to deal with clutter up-front instead of trying to prevent it from ever happening (because it will anyway!) Focus on providing better search options. Use tagging more effectively. Create an App Rank formula. Just don’t tell me not to upload a few hundred apps because I’m going to clutter your digital store.
So we’ll create a single app, but the folks out there searching for “Duke basketball” or “UNC” won’t find it. But according to Apple, no one would do that kind of thing.