The horror of developing apps for the iPhone

“You should write an iPhone App,” suggested my friend. It was mid-2008 and Apple had just announced it was making the iPhone SDK available to the public. The prospect of tapping into the App Store was tempting: a massive distribution network with millions of potential customers and generous terms to boot, with Apple declaring that it would pass on 70% of turnover to developers.

And so, I eventually decided to go for it. I would make an iPhone version of an online puzzle game that I had been developing called Squarepeg. It consists of pushing around coloured shapes into the correct holes, so it’s well-suited to a touchscreen and felt like a good fit.

First step was to buy a Mac, as iPhone Apps can only be developed using one. With hindsight, this was probably the easiest part of the process. Next I had to learn Objective C, a minefield of square brackets and baffling error messages for the uninitiated – “Syntax error before AT_NAME token” became a new friend.

Finally, in order to send my game out for beta testing, I had to incorporate Apple’s mandatory security measures. This process, known as provisioning, involves downloading various certificates, profiles and security keys, then trying to persuade the Mac software to allow all three to co-exist peacefully without throwing a massive strop and going home, taking my App with it. You can Google ‘iPhone provisioning hell’ for more insight into those painful, long nights.

Reviews Roulette

Six months (and a new set of fingernails) later, I am nearly done. All that remains is for my App to pass the App Store review, a sort of driving test for applications, only far more scary. This ‘Review Roulette’ has gained notoriety recently; there are now even dedicated websites (e.g. where you can pore through the inconsistent and, at times, ludicrous reasons why other Apps have been rejected.

These range from the bizarre – using the word ‘iPhone’ in your App – to the ridiculous: having the temerity to use graphics that are “too shiny”, as the authors of Chess Wars found to their cost.

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