Marco Arment, the creator of an app called Instapaper — an app that allows users to save Web pages offline so they can read them offline later — reported on his Web site that he was hit by an onslaught of emails this past week by people who had downloaded the latest version of his app but we surprised to watch the app crash as soon as it was loaded.
“Last night, within minutes of Apple approving the Instapaper 4.2.3 update, I was deluged by support email and Twitter messages from customers saying that it crashed immediately on launch, even with a clean install,” Arment wrote on his company’s site. “This didn’t make sense — obviously, Apple had reviewed it, and it worked for them. My submitted archive from Xcode worked perfectly. But every time I downloaded the update from the App Store, clean or not, it crashed instantly.”
Like any good techie, Marco spent the rest of the night trying to figure out what was going wrong. After many hours, he pinpointed the problem: a seemingly corrupt update being distributed by the App Store in many or possibly all regions.
now, Marco wasn’t the only app developer whose microchips were in a bunch over this. The app developer of GoodReader, an iPhone app that is like Adobe’s document reader on mobile device steroids, had a bone to pick. They also sifted through the mess, coming up with a 24-step process to fix the app launching issue.
The upshot is that Apple had the bug fixed for InstaPaper within a few hours of being notified by Marco. However, other apps were still suffering launch issues far beyond that point. The issue at hand seems to be the makings of a perfect storm — too many apps being developed for key devices, and firmware updates not being able to keep up, or being released without proper quality assurance testing.
This is a problem for consumers, because we have already bought into the indispensability of our handheld electronic devices. Hardware manufacturers work to make them incredibly functional and convenience, while app developers keep coming up with more mission critical tasts that we can accomplish with them. In some cases, they are absolutely critical to our being able to do business. For instance, a new credit card clearing app on the iPhone is now in wide use on convention floors, enabling vendors to accept credit cards without unwieldy rented credit card machines. Imagine having a line full of customers at a convention and not being able to process their payments because of a software issue. It’s not a pretty sight.
So, there needs to be changes on both sides of the fence.
Manufacturers like Apple need to pay much closer attention to updates, to ensure that they actually enable — instead of disable — new apps. App developers need to be careful not to move too fast. We want them to move fast, make no mistake, but not so fast that the firmware updates aren’t left sitting in the dust calling “Wait for me!”
And consumers — we need to wait a little longer before downloading the hottest, newest apps, until bugs like this have an ample opportunity to work themselves out. You wouldn’t marry someone on a first date (unless you were in Vegas), so don’t link a mission critical business function to a phone app until you are sure that it is up to carrying the load.