An uneven playing field in the Apple iOS App Store

Eaerlier tonight, my friend Antoine (a great guy who has a passion for spreading the Gospel via mobile devices) and one of the patriarchs of Christian computer, Kevin, had a brief exchange on twitter:

 RT : to all my bible app dev friends, please tell me u dont do this //I wouldn't be surprised;

https://twitter.com/#!/mobileminmag/status/166719391889768448

The article Kevin linked to is about a company who sells services to have bots (i.e. not real people, just programmed computers), go through and download your app in iTunes.

I don't think that any of my peers in the business would ever stoop to such schenanigans. One of the things that I have loved about working in the Christian tech industry is that, ultimately, we all have the same goal: to help speard the Gospel and offer resources that might help disciple the Church. We all have different ways of marketing and innovating and - as such - we get to reach a larger audience.

For some, setting up an agreement with someone to ensure you're going to get into the top 25 apps makes total sense and is a marketing strategy. And, to be honest, it's a very successful one.

There are so many apps out there now that finding a way to get people to even know you're out there is nigh impossible. Even with all the marketing we do for MyStudyBible.com, in the past week I've mentioned our mobile site to a few different Christian techies... and they had no clue it even existed (feel free to visit it on your phone now at MyStudyBible.com or, if you have an HTML5 compatible browser, on your desktop at MyStudyBible.com/mobile). The simple fact of the matter is, getting people to even know you exist is getting harder and harder.

But getting into that cherished Top 25 list... well, that's magic. It propels you to success, just in the same way that if you can crack the New York Times bestseller's list, magical things suddenly happen. Very few get to rise to that top position in their respective categories... it's a great feeling when you do.

The allure - and potential profit - is simply to great to ignore for some people. And, when you consider that this is for free apps, which are usually just marketing vessels for some transaction anyways... it would make sense for people to game the system in order to get their apps up there.

This issue brings into play so many issues and ideas around the app marketplace. Its a reminder of how young and immature this market really is... and how many issues Apple has no real need to fix since they have been king of the hill since the day they struck gold with the iPhone.

As a consumer, I hate being tricked that the supposed "best" apps were nothing more than paid placement. If I was Apple, I would be livid that apps which weren't good enough to peak on their own became the supposed "top" apps their platform had to offer. And as a developer, I am so frustrated that there isn't any legit way to get my wares an ad placement or sponsored status in their store.

Does this mean the model of the best-of-the-best rising to the top is broken? I don't think so. It just means that someone gamed the system. Here's to hoping that Apple makes it an even playing field for us all once again.