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iPhone App Users: Do You Feel Anxious About Your Investments' Safety? Apple Doesn't.
Apple’s iTunes Connect System, the Restrictive API and the Company’s Definition of ‘Spam’ Prevent Users from a Better Experience
[February 11, 2013]

Purchased software in the App StoreSM often has to be updated with every new OS release, something which is normally done automatically by the developer for users. However, according to App Store policy, apps that are no longer being actively sold have to be removed entirely from the App Store, potentially leaving thousands of users without the proper ongoing support. At the same time, Apple's iTunesConnect system does not permit developers to update software which is no longer available for sale and, as a result of this policy, these users can be left with incompatible software, out of step with the OS currently running on their phones, and frustrated.

Paragon Software Group, a multi-platform developer of dictionary and reference applications since 1994, partners with the world’s leading lexicographers, bringing to the mobile market hundreds of reference titles for 30 languages, available for all popular mobile platforms. With an average price of $24.99, premium dictionary content is licensed from the world’s foremost publishers, bringing the user the best and the most reliable translation and foreign language reference possible.

This quality content, coupled with innovative features, makes Paragon apps popular around the world and in high demand. Naturally, users would expect to get full support for such an investment, regardless of any OS upgrade suggested by their phone manufacturer, in this case Apple. Paragon would like to support all of its customers, whatever OS version their iPhone is running and regardless of whether the product is being sold in the App Store or not.

Unfortunately, this isn't currently possible, since the administrative interface of iTunesConnect doesn’t allow developers to support old products at all. This issue isn't, of course, unique to Paragon Software Group. This applies to many quality reference apps on iOS that are priced highly because of their unique content and, as a result, are expected to perform well for users for years, rather than months, regardless of whether the content provider is still involved in the sales of current products. These applications include weather forecasting, GPS navigation systems, traffic apps and tourist guides, to name but a few, and all face similar issues. Any applications that involve not only the developer, but the content provider as well, are especially under threat. The damage caused as a result of Apple’s iTunesConnect policy is a tremendous blow not only to iOS users in general but also (potentially) to a developer’s reputation.

This problem of timely update of all apps sold through the App Store should be the foremost concern for every developer and Apple, working in tandem. Paragon Software has contacted Apple on November 19, 2012 in order to communicate the specific problem with the support of one of its apps users. In regard to Paragon’s letter, an Apple representative sent an email dated November 22nd, 2012, stating that another representative would get in touch with Paragon shortly. However, there has been no such follow up from either person and no reaction to Paragon’s further attempts to get in touch with Apple.

The ongoing support problem is not the only issue that developers and users face today with Apple. Other problems include, for example, the monopolistic approach to its APIs. A dictionary API comes with the purchase of the iOS device, and it doesn't allow users to choose the dictionary of their choice and set it up as the “default”. Apple’s functions simply do not permit this.

Finally, Apple, generally known for great products when it comes to usability and innovative design, turns out to be less outstanding when determining which apps submitted to the App Store should be considered 'spam' or not. Apple’s current review process is seemingly generic and staffers don't seem to be trained in handling educational and reference applications. As a result, all dictionaries and reference apps – regardless of their various content or even languages, are considered to be the same, based on the mere fact that they include the same functions. No consideration is given to the variety of actual content, which is, unquestionably, and rather ironically, the most important factor in any reference application.

The 'spam' issue effectively stops developers (like Paragon Software) adding new dictionary apps. This is Apple's response, in clarifying what it means by 'spam':

We found that your app provides the same feature set as other apps you've submitted to the App Store; it simply varies the content or language.

We understand the word "spam" can have a negative connotation. However, we use it simply to characterize a large number of very similar apps that causes the App Store to seem "cluttered". Apps that replicate functionality but provide different content contribute to a sense of clutter in the App Store, hindering users' ability to find apps. Such apps do not comply with the App Store Review Guidelines.

Apps based on a common feature set should be combined into a single container app that uses the In App Purchase API to deliver different content.

Please consolidate all German --> Spanish dictionary apps. There are currently over 300 dictionary apps, and there should not be any duplicates. Apps could be consolidated by brand of dictionary or by language.

It may be appropriate to revise your app to use the In App Purchase API to provide content purchasing functionality.

In summary, Paragon Software Group believes that Apple's current policies are far too restrictive, preventing the expected, ongoing, long term support of premium content-based applications, restricting which language dictionaries can be selected as default by users, and forcing dictionary applications into a hierarchical model that may be too complex or simply not appropriate for many users.

Paragon would like to ensure all users of its products, and iOS users in particular, that every attempt is made to provide long term, professional support for every purchased title. In regards to the issues above, Paragon will persist in trying to communicate, and work things out, with Apple and its iTunesConnect system. There has to be a better solution than what's currently in place and Paragon Software Group won't rest until something is found.

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Paragon Software Group and Mobile TeleSystems win Global Telecoms Business Innovation Award 2011.
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Paragon has been recognized with the "Software of the Year 2009" award for PONS Advanced English dictionary.

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