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Why iPhone developers should defect to Android

Don Reisinger thinks Android can be a refuge for rejected iPhone developers. Even better, he thinks it could make Apple change its ways.

Quite a bit has been made lately over Apple's treatment of developers who want to create apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The company has consistently played games with developers by keeping them in the dark and ensuring that each time an app is rejected they're given as little information as possible.

Of course, this doesn't come as a surprise to those of us who have followed Apple all these years. The company has always been suspect of third-party developers and has consistently failed to do the right thing even when it's faced with a PR firestorm. After all, if the mainstream doesn't pay attention, who cares?

But it's that kind of mentality that could get Apple into trouble. Sure, it worked fine for the company with Mac OS X and it has every right in the world to stop apps from getting into its store if they're undesirable, but that doesn't stop the onslaught of complaints that Apple is acting in a way that's more than a little "wrong."

Let's see if I can capture the main points. First, Apple announced that the first iPhone wouldn't have third-party apps. It took almost a year for the company to come around and finally let third-party developers create apps for its follow-up. But once that happened, all hell broke loose.

First, developers repeatedly made claims that Apple's excessive restrictions were out-of-hand, only to be followed once the App Store launched with a few notable removals from the store, including Nullriver's NetShare and Box Office.

Since that time, Apple has stayed quiet on what it takes to gain entry into the App store, the company has given poor reasons why it won't accept apps, and now it's believed that Apple's rejection letters are covered under its non-disclosure agreement, which means developers won't be able to help each other gain admission to the store.

All the while, developers across the globe are wondering why they thought Apple would do the right thing, given its history.

For all its troubles, the App Store is still being flooded with applications: Russell Beattie found 450 new applications in the store in just one week.

That number may seem high, but given the outcry from developers, I'm willing to bet that the number of applications denied could be much higher. Once again, Apple won't spill the beans.

So what can developers do? After investing time and money into an application only to be told by Apple that it's not admitted into the App Store can be a bitter defeat. But now that Android is finally shipping in T-Mobile's G1, why not jump to Android?

Unlike Apple's draconian policies, Android is an open platform and Google and the rest won't spend time trying to stop as many third-party developers from producing apps for the platform.

But the main problem with developing for Android is that the hardware isn't uniform. Some Android-based phones will sport touch-screens, while others will not. That makes developing applications far more difficult, considering the possibility of dealing with a wide array of hardware. But then again, who cares? Rejected iPhone app developers can still create touch-screen Android apps and for those that don't have a touch-screen Android phone, well, they're out of luck.

But perhaps the most compelling reason why developers should defect to Android is because it will finally wake up Steve Jobs and company. Right now, I don't know why Apple should even care about all these developers crying about their beloved apps. The way I see it, they need Apple; Apple doesn't need them.

But if they defect to Android and the Android market becomes a real powerhouse, the whole game will change. Suddenly, Apple will need to take notice and realize the error of its ways.

It might be a long-shot and Apple may not even care that Android is taking its leftovers, but it's worth a shot, isn't it? For developers who invested their time and money into an application that they thought was worthwhile, being rejected by Apple is difficult. But they need to realize that Android is out there and available if they're willing to put the time in and create the app on that platform.

And if enough developers do create Android apps, it'll force Apple to take notice and hopefully change its ridiculous policy of keeping basic and useful information secret, while making it more difficult than it needs to be on developers.

There's always one other option for rejected developers: they can try to go it alone and offer their apps themselves. That will work for, oh, about 10 minutes until Apple finds it and shuts it down.

Android can be a refuge. Developers shouldn't forget that.

Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.