Is Apple penalizing iPhone devs who update their apps? | Cult of Mac

Is Apple penalizing iPhone devs who update their apps?



If you’ve not heard of James Thomson, he’s the chap behind advanced launcher DragThing and high-powered Mac calculator app PCalc. Seeing as iPhone’s calculator is a bit lacking, Thomson created PCalc for iPhone (which you can buy by clicking here), pictured above, and sales were swift.

However, on his blog, Thomson reported yesterday that PCalc 1.1 almost vanished without a trace. The reason? Apple had changed the way applications were displayed on the App Store, listing them by original release date rather than the date of the most recent update. Consequently, PCalc 1.1 languished on the last page of the Utilities section, since it was released very early on in the App Store’s history. Sales of the update, unsurprisingly, weren’t exactly speedy.

At the time of writing, PCalc now sits on page 4 of the Utilities section, with Thomson having manually changed the ‘Availability Date’ in iTunes Connect. “So, is this behaviour a bug, a loophole, or how it’s actually supposed to work?,” asks Thomson, noting that those who aren’t aware of this undocumented ‘trick’ are effectively being penalized in the listings.

This episode raises obvious questions. Is there a general misunderstanding regarding how application updates should be dated for their position in the ‘release date’ sort order? Or is Apple already sick of developers trying to regularly bump their apps to the top of the pile via tiny incremental updates, and therefore made changes that caught the likes of PCalc in the blast?

We very much hope the former is the case. It would be terrible if the ‘Availability Date’ fix is a loophole that Apple’s going to close. After all, if you’ve spent lots of time working on an application, what incentive do you have to fix bugs and add features if your creation will forever sit abandoned and forgotten, dozens of clicks away from the front door?

14 responses to “Is Apple penalizing iPhone devs who update their apps?”

  1. AndyM says:

    They need some sort of more complicated algorithm… such as a combination of original release date, latest update, total # of updates, number of downloads, reviews, etc. I don’t know the formula exactly, but with all of the crap-apps, there has to be a way to get the ones that people actually care about to the top. New apps should be able to get a chance, but it doesn’t take long for the decent apps to shine.

  2. bsoudi says:

    I think this highlights something I haven’t seen any Mac people write about: how much the app store, especially on the iPhone itself, sucks.

    There are no sub-categories. You choose games and then you have to wade through just 1,486 choices! Entertainment? 671 choices!

    And it seems as if the “Top Apps” are very volatile. Are they based on reviews? How many before getting ranked? Are they based on sales/downloads?

    And how about browsing by price?

    Maybe because it’s so new, we just need to become accustomed to how it works. Buying them like we buy music — recommendations from friends, web sites, media, etc. But as the number of apps begins to grow exponentially, there’s got to be a better way.

    It just seems so in refined compared to other apple stuff. ALmost as bad as the widget download page on

  3. YodaMac says:

    There WAS a better way – before Apple removed “All Free Apps” and the other “All…” choices. Those could be sorted by date, name, etc.

    Fortuantely a few websites still track these things and the best you can do now is to subscribe to their RSS feeds and check there for whats new in the App Store today.

    Bring back “All Free Apps”!!!!

  4. ABanks says:

    Not like apple to screw people over for profit.

  5. mj says:

    No – not apple screwing developers again, I never saw that coming!

  6. charli says:

    given the tiny screen on the iphone I”m not really bothered by the lack of information in the apps store. if I’m surfing for apps, i’m using my computer anyway. and there I get the what’s hot, what’s new, categories, top paid, top free etc.

  7. fred says:

    people gaming the system by doing tiny updates to boost visibility probably led to this.