iPhone Apps and the Kindness of Strangers

Note: I'm very well aware that this story might make me seem unprofessional; if so, so be it. It's such a great story about the better angels of human nature that I have to tell it anyway.

In the 14 years that Brainwrap has been around, I've never had a business experience as flat-out surreal as the one that happened earlier this afternoon.

The whole thing started this morning when I received word that the app had finally, after a week of waiting, entered Apple's App Approval Process Queue.

You see, Android-based apps have virtually no review process whatsoever--you can upload pretty much any app, with any level of quality (or lack thereof) to the Google Play Store on your own. No one really reviews the content, functionality or quality of the app; you just set up your account, upload the app file and the appropriate other information about yourself, the app, some icons and screen shots, and voila: A few hours later, your app is live and ready for download.

The iTunes App Store has a completely different approach. Apple is extremely wary of the quality of the million-plus Apps on their store, which work with iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. They have a legendary attention to detail, and have extremely strict requirements for pretty much every aspect of the app before they'll allow it to go live; everything from the range of functionality to the crispness of the tab icons has to meet their standards, or there's a chance of them rejecting your app. If your app is rejected, you can alter it and resubmit it for another approval process...but you have to start the whole thing all over again. Since the process can take up to two weeks or more, this is, to put it mildly, not something you want to risk having to go through again.

In any event, I crossed my t's and dotted my i's; I sweated every conceivable detail that I could think of, and when I was sure that it was up to snuff, I finally submitted it to Apple.

And then, this morning, right after it went into the official "Waiting for Review" status, I discovered, to my horror, that I had forgotten one minor--but very important--detail.

The iPhone 5 screen shots were wrong.

You see, earlier generations of iPhones, including my own iPhone 4S, have a 3.5" screen. Those screen shots were just fine.

However, when you upload an App to the App Store, you also have to include screen shots of what the App looks like on the iPhone 5, which has a taller, higher-resolution 4" screen.

Since I don't have an iPhone 5, this put me in a bind. You can't simply stretch out the smaller screen shots; they'll look awful. You can't simply Photoshop the shots to make them taller; Apple can tell, and it won't look right for most of the shots anyway.

The only way to resolve the problem is to get ahold of an iPhone 5 specifically, install the Preview App, bring up the app in question, take screen shots from that and then upload those to the Apple Developer Account. Here's the catch: Once the App is in the Waiting for Review phase, it could actually begin the review process at any time--it could be 5 minutes, it could be 5 days. No way of knowing. And once the process has begun, there's no changes allowed; you have to wait for them to either approve or reject it.

This means that the iPhone 5 screen shots had to be created and uploaded right now. Not next week, not tomorrow, but today...which means that I had to find someone willing to:

  • Let me borrow their iPhone 5
  • Let me install an app that they've never heard of and don't really need onto their iPhone
  • Let me then launch another app within that one and take a bunch of screen shots of it
  • Let me email the screen shots to myself

Furthermore, since it was the middle of a Monday afternoon, and I don't happen to know offhand which particular version of smartphone most of my family & friends happen to have, I wasn't really in a position to call up anyone I know to ask if I can swing by and borrow theirs...so I decided to try the local Apple store. I figured that I might be able to convince the management to allow me to install the Preview App long enough to get the screen shots. The only problem is that the nearest store is still a bit of a schlep to get to.

On my way out of the subdivision, I spy one of my neighbors out working on the lawn. What the heck; I stop and ask. It turns out she has an iPhone 4S. However, she mentions that her daughter happens to be friends with one of the managers at the local Verizon store--which also happens to be much closer anyway. She suggests that I drop her daughter's name with the manager to see if that helps.

Unfortunately, when I get to the Verizon store, not only wasn't the daughter's friend there, neither of the employees at the store have an iPhone 5 either and it turns out that they don't even keep active, live smartphones out at that location--all of the models out on the floor are mockups, for display only.

I thanked them anyway, and gritting my teeth, resigned myself to the trek to the Apple store. And then, suddenly, it dawned on me: The Verizon store was immediately next door to...a Starbucks.

A Starbucks.

And what is the cliché about Starbucks? What can you always find plenty of at pretty much any Starbucks location worldwide?

Apple products. Lots and lots of MacBook Pros, iPads...and iPhones.

I walked in and sure enough, there were Apple logos all over the place. I tried the first table, where two guys had a MacBook Pro and MacBook Air out respectively; unfortunately, one had an iPhone 4 and the other had an Android phone.

I apologized for bothering them and moved on. And then, there they were. A young couple chatting, one of whom had an iPhone on the table. I apologized for the intrusion, warned them of the strange question to follow, and asked. Sure enough, the young woman not only had an iPhone 5, but both of them were perfectly willing to both sit through my lengthy explanation of my predicament and assist.

I cannot thank Nirali enough for the incredible trust and patience she showed in allowing me to install software on her phone, launch the app, take a bunch of screen shots and then email them to myself, nor can I thank her companion, Amish, enough for his assistance in the process. I especially thank both of them for putting up with a weird guy wasting their time.

Anyway, the end result is that I was able to acquire the proper screen shots and upload them to the account before the app review process actually starts.

I still can't be certain that it will be approved, but if it doesn't, it won't be due to the screen shots, anyway.

So, thanks again to Nirali and Amish; trust like that is rare to see these days. And yes, I did send a couple of Starbucks Gift Cards to them, so both of you, please, have a half double decaffeinated half-caf with a twist of lemon on me!

My next order of business, of course, is to acquire an iPhone 5 myself to make sure I have both resolutions...