03/03/2010, 09:12 AM
There is an ongoing stream of complaints about developers not making free apps available internationally, most recently surrounding the release of IPK Fetcher. I am involved in the development of an app that commits this "crime" and would like to explain what might make developers do this.
First of all: I am a German currently living in the US, so I know both sides' views well. The app I am involved with is Cardsender, free and only available in the US. While I don't make decisions about availability, I am the one who suggested doing this. Why?
Let me start by pointing out that App Catalog ratings are extremely important. Only apps with high rating get popular, you are doomed if many people rate you low. We observed that for a year in the iTunes App Store and for a couple of months in the webOS App Catalog. The trouble is: Only few people take the time to rate you well. The incentive to leave a terrible rating is much higher. And boy, are there many reasons to trash our postcard sending app: For some people it didn't download properly. Some people complain that it doesn't send ecards (1 star for this). Other people complain that USPS took two weeks to deliver the card. Some people even complain, that the card did not arrive after they put a wrong address on it! Do you notice a trend? None of these complaints relate to the app itself. People give you 0-star and 1-star reviews for things that have nothing to do with your app.
This brings me to the next point. Unfortunately, there seem to be many dumb users out there. We had our German Kartensender App in the iTunes App Store worldwide for a while. The description stated clearly that postcards are sent from Cologne, Germany. People wrote us emails saying "My card took two weeks to arrive because it was sent from Germany! You suck!" Literally. Others wrote: "Your website is in gibberish, where is the English website!?" Others complained about payment methods: "What's that Direct Debit ****. That only works for German banks!" They are right. In fact it said so in the app description, in the app and right next to the payment button. The app was obviously targeted for Germans. We released it worldwide because we thought some users might appreciate it. Instead, many users took this as an opportunity to give us 1-star-ratings (there is no 0-star rating in iTunes).
So when we ported the app to webOS, we wanted to do everything better. US users would get their own app that supports US-typical payment methods, is in US English and has the cards printed in the US (making delivery times faster and printing/postage costs cheaper). And German users would get their own app with German direct debit, German language and printing in Germany. We also have apps in the pipe for the UK and Ireland and are working on Spanish translation. The plan is to provide each country with an app targeted at their specific market. Note that this goes well beyond the localization that are available as part of the SDK which can mostly be overridden by the user.
Of course this plan sounds too perfect to work. First came a fellow German who lives in California. He wants to use the German version of our app. We had to tell him "No" because there simply isn't a way to give him the German app without making it available to all US users (who would then come and complain that everything is in German). And then there is a problem with Palm. The Palm-problem is so ridiculous, it deserves its own paragraph:
We submitted a (free) Germany-only version of our app for review to Palm as part of the Early Access Program in December 2009. By the end of January, the Early Access Program was over and everyone was merrily getting their apps published in the App Catalog. We figured, something was wrong with our app. So we asked. And got a standard reply about them being busy. So we asked again. And again. Until we finally found out, why our app is still not in the German App Catalog: The Palm reviewers do not have a German device with a German SIM card and are therefore not able to review our app. Let me repeat that: After months of selling Pres in Germany, Palm does not have the capability of testing apps that are written for German users. At the time of writing this (March 2010) our app has been waiting for two and a half months just to be reviewed!
So if you are German and you are complaining about the low availability of free apps in your App Catalog: Please don't complain to the developers. Instead complain to those users who keep us from publishing apps worldwide by rating them low because they don't like foreign languages. And (more importantly) COMPLAIN TO PALM about not releasing apps that are made for you and you only!