o2 Litmus App Showdown competition: A developer’s concerns

I published a post on Monday about the o2 Litmus App Showdown competition offering £10k for iPhone developers interested in participating. It seemed like a pretty good idea to me and I reckoned quite a lot of developers would be tempted.

I then heard from regular reader, Simon Maddox. By day, Simon is a developer at By night he’s a freelance mobile developer, writing apps for as many platforms as he can get his hands on. He’s also developer of the popular 0870 app for Android and iPhone, which has currently saved UK consumer, by my reckoning, at least £100,000. His views below are entirely his own.

Here’s what Simon has to say:

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The App Showdown from o2 Litmus is, on the surface, a pretty cool idea. Submit an iPhone app that their customers like, and you could win ten grand.

But, as a developer, it looks to me as if it’s been thought out by a bunch of Marketing guys who thought “Yeah, this’ll work“, without actually running it by someone that actually knows about iPhone development first.

For example, the submission guidelines state that you should submit the app to Apple for Beta testing (their T&C’s clarify this as being able to create an Ad-Hoc Provisioning Profile), and then provide them with the iTunes URL to the app.

Had they actually tried it, or if they’d even spoken to a developer, they’d know that’s just not how the Ad Hoc distribution works. To create an Ad Hoc provisioning profile you register the devices and then tell it which App ID you want to use (Apple recommend you use com.yourdomain.* so that it will work for all of your apps).

You don’t submit the app, or even tell Apple that you’re doing it. Therefore you don’t get an iTunes URL. That’s how lots of developers, myself included, distribute apps that have been rejected from the App Store.

So that’s problem one – you can’t actually submit anything using their rules.

Problem two – anyone who has actually done any iPhone development probably won’t be able to enter anyway. In their submission guidelines, O2 say that you must have 95 ad hoc spaces remaining, all of which you’ll have to assign to the o2 judges (Apple give you 100, and you can’t delete devices from the list afterwards), but it’s ok – they’ll generously leave you five. If you’ve done any distribution this way in the past, you can forget entering the App Showdown since you probably won’t have 95 left!

Problem three – bias towards o2 apps. On the website, they give a short list of what their “customers” would like to see. I’m almost willing to bet that, regardless of what you enter, the poorly developed app that just about interfaces with the o2 Joggler will somehow end up winning.

o2 might be better off getting their own developer account, register all of the “judges” devices in that (since they’ll now have 100 spaces free) and create provisioning profiles for each developer to build into their apps. That’ll solve problem two. Problem one could be solved by asking people to blog about the app they’ve created and providing the URL to that, instead of an iTunes URL. Free publicity for them too!

That said, despite the competition’s flaws, it’s a really great thing, and one that I hope will encourage developers to create apps that customers want, instead of YAFA (Yet Another Fart App).

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Thank you for that Simon. I’ve met the o2 Litmus chaps and I’m sure they didn’t necessarily expect this response from you — further, I trust they’ll have some perspective for you shortly.

You can find Simon on Twitter at @simonmaddox, and can (rarely — come on, more, Simon?) be found blogging at

Update: Mobile developer Kieran also raised the same issue on his blog.

Update 2: James Parton of o2 Litmus responded swiftly here.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

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