iPhone Apps Now Require 3.0 Compatibility

Apple's App Store Rivals

Bad news for iPhone app developers just about done with their current projects — Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) announced that applications must now support the upcoming iPhone OS 3.0 to receive approval.

Beginning today, any app submitted for the iPhone App Store must be compatible with the latest beta, version 5, of the iPhone’s software, the company said.

“We sent an e-mail to developers yesterday saying all submissions to the App Store will be reviewed on the latest beta of iPhone OS 3.0 in preparation for the millions of iPhone and iPod Touch customers move to iPhone OS 3.0 this summer,” an Apple spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mail.

According to the e-mail sent to developers, “If your app submission is not compatible with iPhone OS 3.0, it will not be approved.”

While Apple said that existing apps in the App Store should already run on iPhone OS 3.0 without modification, it also urged developers to “test your existing apps with iPhone OS 3.0 to ensure there are no compatibility issues. After iPhone OS 3.0 becomes available to customers, any app that is incompatible with iPhone OS 3.0 may be removed from the App Store.”

9to5mac.comReports also indicate that the iPhone 3.0 software includes parental controls that will prohibit user access to apps if a user doesn’t meet a minimum age requirement. There is also an option to turn the restrictions off.

Apple has yet to provide details on this technology, but the reports suggest the possibility that Apple staffers who oversee the approval of thousands of apps may also soon be responsible for evaluating applications’ age-appropriateness.

The reports come as the iPhone app approval process is already under scrutiny for what critics claim are arbitrary or confusing reasons for rejection.

The debate reached new heights this week as Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor called Apple’s content evaluation process nothing less than capricious. In his band Web site forum, he accused Apple of using a double-standard — the company had rejected an update to the band’s iPhone app, while the song featured in the app is available for sale on iTunes.

Apple has since relented on the Nine Inch Nails application.

It’s unclear whether iPhone OS 3.0 and its reported parental controls feature will mean that apps such as Reznor’s aren’t automatically dismissed — instead, they could be placed in the “17 and older” category of apps.

While Reznor has the fame of his band to get his gripes in the headlines, developers who find the approval process equally frustrating are sounding off too, with less fanfare.

While lauding the Apple App store as the foundation for his company’s success and acknowledging the growing pains necessary in developing for an emerging platform, Jason Jacobs, maker of the iPhone app RunKeeper, criticized some portions of the Apple app approval process that he said could make it less frustrating for developers.

Specifically, he said Apple should provide reasons why apps are rejected so that they can be fixed. He also suggested that Apple having a more consistent and thorough policy on rejections.

“If you reject our app, test the whole thing and tell us every reason why you plan to reject it,” he wrote. “If you tell us one reason, and then we fix it only to find there were three other reasons why you planned on rejecting it all along, we’d prefer to know all of those in one shot instead of one at a time (with a 1-2 week approval process in between each rejection.)”

He also argued for more flexibility on Apple’s part.

“If we make a mistake and push a build that we shouldn’t have, let us revert back to the most recent version instead of pulling the app from the store altogether.”

Reznor and Jacobs aren’t the only ones upset over Apple’s App Store activities. Complaints about the process have prompted a number of developers to explore alternatives — such as creating app stores of their own.

Apple spokespeople declined to comment on the issues.

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