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Apple’s App War Needs Peace

I asked for ideas on how Apple could improve the app store from Jacob Eiting, a founder of RevenueCat, who helps app makers design in-app purchases and knows what drives developers crazy.

Specify how developers can fix rejected apps: Apple says yes or no to each new iPhone app or app update, based on the company’s 12,700 word rule book – not including add-ons. (US Constitution plus all changes run at 7600 words.)

Eiting said that developers sometimes receive rejection letters that simply recite some of Apple̵

7;s rules. He said it would be more useful if Apple employees gave concrete suggestions on what developers could change – sometimes as small as customizing a menu – to get the app approved.

Improve Apple payment technology: Eiting said it can take weeks or longer for app makers to write software that links their app to Apple’s proprietary system for people to pay for things with a fingerprint or face scan. Making software links with other payment technology is much easier, said Eiting.

Clarify the gray zone: Apple has two categories of app purchases: When you purchase something virtual, such as an e-book, Apple collects from the app manufacturer a fee of up to 30 percent on the purchase. When you buy something to use in the real world, like a physical book or an Uber ride, Apple does not charge a fee.

But a growing number of apps offer services that are somewhere between real and virtual – personal training or cooking classes conducted over an app, for example.

Eiting said that Apple had to clarify when the company will consider commissions on apps that offer these hybrid activities. Confusion over this issue stops some apps before they even launch, he said.

Rate an independent app review: There are inevitable questions about conflicts of interest between app manufacturers and Apple’s own apps competing with them. The founders of Blix, an app maker that has struggled with Apple, suggested to me that Apple create an independent app review process to ensure that it is not unfair to penalize competing apps.

Apple has previously made changes to the app system to respond to the developer’s complaints, and the company told me it’s always open for more. However, any customizations will not go as far as some app manufacturers will: essentially blowing Apple’s control over which apps are allowed on people’s iPhones.

But it is still possible to modernize the app system in ways that can provide more peace of mind for Apple, developers and our smartphone-dependent lives.

Brian X. Chen, the consumer technology columnist for The New York Times, offers these helpful tips for taming apps that bother us too much or drain our phones:

Apps can make our lives better. But some bother you with too many alerts, and others chop too much battery life or storage of devices.

Here are four steps you can take to minimize your app:

1) Declutter: Empty all the apps you haven’t used in a long time.

2) Find and remove the storage pigs: On iPhones, go to Settings> General> iPhone storage to see a list of the apps that take up the most space on your device. Select each of them and follow the recommendations to reduce the load.

On Android devices, use Google’s tool called Files, which has an option to sort apps on your device by the largest storage pigs.

3) Minimize alerts: On iPhones, go to Settings> Notifications to see a switchboard for apps that send notifications. On Androids, do the same by going to Settings> Apps & Alerts> Alerts.

From there, turn off notifications for all major apps, such as messages and email.

4) Find the battery suction: Look for apps that are active for extended periods of time, even when you are not using them, as this may drain battery life.

Open the Settings app on iPhones and Android phones, and in the battery menu there are sorted lists of apps that use the most energy.

Tap an app on the iPhone’s battery usage screen to reveal information about how much battery life it consumes when you use it actively (“on screen”) compared to when you are not (“background”).

On Android devices, the “CPU total” and “CPU foreground” timers are the most useful information. The foreground is how much time you had the app open; subtract “foreground” from “total” and you will know how much time has been spent on the battery, even when you have not used it.

When you find a battery-sucking culprit, go to the app’s individual settings and turn off some features to minimize power consumption.

  • We have no idea what’s going on with TikTok: The app may be closed soon in the US, or be sold and stay alive, or meet something completely different. The last twist my colleagues reported: The Chinese government, the home of TikTok’s current owner, ByteDance, revised the rules in ways that – as the US government has done – dictate who can own TikTok based on national security guidelines.

  • Episode 4 zillion of technology companies’ reality that contradicts their idealism: Erin Griffith, who writes about young technology companies for The Times, takes us into the conflicts in Carta. This start-up was built to give employees more power in their companies and help close gaps in wages and workplace treatment for women. But Erin reported that some of Carta’s employees – many of them women – said they were abused and underpaid by their own employer, and that their complaints were ignored or made worse.

  • Virtual schooling can mean you miss out on special education: With many school districts in the United States restarting at least partially online this fall, it is not clear whether children with disabilities will be able to receive physical or occupational therapy or other forms of special education that they often receive in school, The Wall Street Journal reported.

I recently learned that a beach bird called Wilson’s Phalarope spins in the water to create a vortex that sucks in insects and other tasty treats. A whole swamp of these spiny birds, as this video from 2013 shows, is quite a sight.

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