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Devs Claim App Store Updates Are Coated in Crash Sauce

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jul 6, 2012 7:00 AM PT

More than 70 iOS apps that were updated on or after July 3 are apparently crashing once they're launched, according to a few angry developers.

Devs Claim App Store Updates Are Coated in Crash Sauce

Customers swamped Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper, on July 4 with complaints that update 4.2.3 of his app had crashed immediately on launch, minutes after it had been approved by Apple. The crashes occurred even with a clean install.

Arment listed other apps that had similar problems with updates released between July 3 and 5. These include "Angry Birds Space" and "Angry Birds Space HD," DocuNotes+, Checkout Helper, CLM iPlanner and Flight International.

Several users of the GoodReader app also complained that the latest update couldn't be launched on their iPads.

Apple has reportedly told developers it is aware of the problem and working on a solution.

Crash Test Dummies

Certain app updates crash immediately on launch every time, even after being deleted and reinstalled, Instapaper's Arment said. The updates don't even show the Default.png before crashing. All the user sees is a brief partial fade to black and the screen then goes back to Springboard.

Default.png is a file that creates the animated starting transition of a loading screen or boilerplate users see when they touch an icon. If devs don't specify a Default.png file, the user will often see a black screen momentarily before the application selected launches.

Springboard is the application is the main application that manages the iOS home screen. It displays all the apps on a user's iPhone and lets the user touch an icon to launch an app.

Some customers updating affected apps from iTunes might get a dialog citing error 8324 or 8326, Arment said. Mac app updates might trigger a statement that the app is damaged and can't be opened, followed by instructions to delete the app and download it again from the App Store.

The console might show the following message: "AppleFairPlayTexCrypterSession::fairplayOpen() failed, error -42110," Arment said.

Power Corrupts

Research indicated the problem is a seemingly corrupt update being distributed by the App Store in many, or possibly all, regions, Instapaper's Arment said.

However, the problem could be a corrupted binary, GoodReader speculated. Apple's distribution servers send a damaged binary instead of the good one devs send to the App Store, GoodReader suggested. iOS doesn't recognize these corrupt binaries as valid and refuses to launch them.

Users of both iOS 5 and the beta version of iOS 6, due for a full launch in the fall, have reportedly been affected.

"This suggests a bigger process problem that will need to be addressed inside Apple and points to the firm's historic weakness with back-end applications," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told MacNewsWorld. "They never really understood servers and have clearly struggled with Web services, and this points to both weaknesses as likely contributing to this problem."

Arment did not respond to our request for further details.

Fallout, Boy!

Arment suggests devs wait a few days to make sure the issue has been resolved before releasing updates, or they'll catch flak from customers.

Not all users may have been equally affected. GoodReader said only customers who tried to update apps directly on their iPads via the App Store were hit, while those who updated in iTunes on their desktops remained untouched.

"I've checked around with various folks internally, and no one has heard anything from developers about this," Peter Farago, vice president of marketing at Flurry Analytics, told MacNewsWorld. "It's possible that it's restricted to just a few apps, as reported." On the other hand, "it's possible that developers are trying to work directly with Apple and have not come back to us." Flurry monitors 400 billion datapoints on 200,000 apps every month.

Apple did not respond to our request for comment.

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