New developer signup: Android is eating Apple’s lunch

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I knew quite a while ago that I would be signing up to become an independent iOS developer. To do this, you have to sign up here for the iOS Developer Program for $99/year. Until you sign up and have been approved, you cannot test your apps on an actual iOS hardware device, you can only use the Simulator.

From my previous day job, I knew this process could take a while. I wasn’t sure how long, so I tried to start early. I had gone through the Android signup process, and I knew how long that took – about 5 minutes. Sign up with a Google account, done. You can start running on actual hardware and post to the Android Market within minutes.

So far, it has been 40 days, and I am still not signed up. (Update: It ended up taking 90 days). This is just appalling. How can Apple not be losing developers over this? In the style of Jamie Murai’s Open Letter to RIM Developer Relations, I wanted to post about this in hopes of making it easier for other independent developers and maybe shaming Apple into better behaviour.

Here is the timeline, so far:

  • June 2. I apply online for iOS Developer Program under my corporation’s name.
  • June 7. I get an email from Apple saying they need more information about my corporation, such as my Provincial or federal business registration, articles of incorporation, or Corporations Charter.  Unfortunately I was on vacation at this time and wasn’t able to send them this information until Monday June 13. Maybe I should subtract 6 days off of the total to be fair.
  • June 13. I fax in my Certificate of Incorporation with an Alberta seal, and my Articles of incorporation.
  • June 14. I get another reminder that I need to send in my supporting documentation. I guess they hadn’t noticed that I had sent it two days ago.
  • June 15. I email [email protected] to confirm they have received it. In the afternoon, I get an automated email saying they’ve received my information.
  • June 27. Twelve days later, I haven’t heard anything so I email [email protected] to again ask for status.
  • June 30. Up to 28 days now. Apple replies to my original June 15th email saying:
Please know that after reviewing your faxed documentation, we noticed that the document you sent in did not hold a state seal or filing stamp that notes “Filed and Approved”.  We ask that you please fax one of the following which has the state seal or filing stamp located on the document:
-Provincial or federal business registration
-Articles of incorporation
-Corporations Charger
-Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) business number “license” or “certificate”
  • Note that I had already sent them my articles of incorporation and my certificate of incorporation which shows the provincial seal. None of the documents listed contains a seal on it. I start Googling for other who have run into this huge delay, and someone recommended contacting Apple Developer Worldwide Telephone Support. To my surprise, they answer immediately. The representative said that when you file your incorporation electronically, you don’t receive any of those documents with a provincial seal on it, which explains my problem. Obviously they were aware that this is common. Unfortunately he said they have very strict rules on approving corporations, and so they have to to send it to a review committee who will try to confirm that my incorporation is legit. If this happens all the time, why don’t they have a more streamlined process? The rep advised me to keep calling in.
  • July 12. Another 12 days later, I still haven’t heard anything. I called Developer Support again. The rep said they can see that the escalation request for review had been submitted and it’s in the queue, but they haven’t heard anything and have no further information for me.
  • Aug 31, 2011: Someone from Apple finally called me saying my case was “escalated” to her, she said they’ve looked over my documents and everything looks good. So they just now finally let me pay for my $99 account. That is just shameful.

So it took nearly 90 days. I’ve worked on about 6 or 7 different iOS projects during that time, but haven’t been able to run or test it on actual iOS devices without some help from friends.
Lessons to be learned here:
  • Call Apple Developer Worldwide Telephone Support instead of emailing [email protected] They answer the phone right away whereas you don’t get email replies for about 15 days.
  • Filing your incorporation electronically will make it hard to get approved quickly.
  • Start applying for your developer account as soon as you have your incorporation. Maybe 3 months before you think you will need it?
  • Apple’s signup process for corporate customers is ridiculous. It could take 90 days for you to get approved.

Thoughts? Comments?

Update Aug 31, 2011: Someone from Apple finally called me (512 area code, Texas), saying my case was “escalated” to her, she said they’ve looked over my documents and everything looks good. So they just now finally let me pay for my $99 account. That is just shameful.

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