Marco Arment on App Rot: It’s Not Pretty Out There

appskullMarco Arment knows a thing or two about good app design. As the creator of Instapaper and the original publisher of The Magazine, he’s often cited as someone that “gets it right.” So when Arment talks about App Rot in the iPad landscape, we listen.

Arment notes a huge problem with the state of third-party apps for the iPad: updates lacking, badly done versions, a lack of vibrant new choices.

“Because while I’m not the most devoted or frequent iPad user, the software landscape on mine has become alarmingly stagnant,” Arment notes.

What’s the culprit?

According to Arment, a huge part of the problem is Apple’s App Store and its focus on the “top list.”

“Top lists reward apps that get people to download them, regardless of quality or long-term use, so that’s what most developers optimize for,” Arment writes. “Profits at the top are so massive that the promise alone attracts vast floods of spam, sleaziness, clones, and ripoffs.”

In fact, the problem is so pervasive the Arment suggests doing away with the idea of top lists altogether.

“The best thing Apple could do to increase the quality of apps is remove every top list from the App Store,” he writes.

“I hope Apple realizes how important it is to everyone — developers, customers, and Apple — that they make changes to encourage more high-quality apps. If they’re trying to boost iPad sales and increase differentiation between iOS and Android devices, that’s the first place to start.”

“[Financial] pressures are taking an immense toll on the quality and sustainability of iOS apps. I picked on the iPad earlier because its problem is deeper and more visible than on the iPhone today: while the iPad has most of the pricing and competitive pressure of the iPhone, the iPhone’s immense installed base can hide the problems for longer. The iPad has a much smaller installed base, so iPad development is even harder to justify,” Arment continues.

Meanwhile the market will continue to crank out apps. It’s high time the system began rewarding quality-built and well-maintained products that provide true usefulness to their users.