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Apple Gives iPhone Developers App Status Tracker

Apple is taking a step toward shining some light on its iPhone application vetting process by providing a new way for app developers to track the status of programs they've submitted to the company's App Store.

Developers can now view the progress of submitted iPhone apps at Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) Dev Center Web site as it goes through the review process, with updates tagged with a time and date.

The status tracker shows when an app is queued up for review with the heading "Waiting for Review," and then changes to "In Review," when it's being evaluated, and finally, "Ready for Sale" once available, according to reports.

Though the status reports may not mark a turn to a completely open and transparent process, it is more informative than the previous format, which relied on a note on Apple's site indicating the current average wait time for approvals, and which did not provide programmers with any individual feedback on their apps.

Apple also sends e-mails to developers who have submitted iPhone apps, although those have also been criticized by some as being unnecessarily terse and opaque.

The company did not return calls seeking comment by press time.

The new feature comes at a time when Apple has come under fire from critics who claim the approval process uses inconsistent criteria and is hampered by little or no feedback to programmers as to where an app is in the approval process or why it has been rejected.

During all the criticism, Apple has typically remained tight-lipped on the matter, saying that most mini-programs for the iPhone are authorized within 14 days and that existing policies ensure smooth performance.

Tony Bove, an iPhone developer, agrees. "Some people think Apple is too restrictive, but I disagree. The guidelines are mature compared to a lot of other platforms," Bove told InternetNews.com.

"As a consumer, I'm very appreciative. I can trust that there's no malicious code," he said. "As a developer, a lot of the criticism I think is tempest in a teapot stuff. I can see why they want to be sure it belongs, looks like an Apple product, and I'm willing to play ball."

The App Store currently has the largest inventory of mobile apps by far, with more than 100,000, while competitors such as Android Marketplace and BlackBerry App World hover around the 20,000 mark.

Still, some developers aren't keen on the Apple App Store approach, namely high-profile developer Joe Hewitt, creator of the Facebook iPhone app, who tweeted that he will no longer create content for the iPhone due to Apple's approval policies.

While not singling out Hewitt, Bove said he thinks the defectors are a vocal minority.

"All the criticism is so much ado about nothing," he said. "I think some people just want to bash on the review process to get media attention. If there's 100,000 apps, it means most developers are busy working."