By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
March 11, 2009

UPDATE: Apple has approved the Amber Alert app described below, two days after the developer’s open letter to Steve Jobs drew publicity to the cause. You can download it here.

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Software developers frustrated with Apple’s (AAPL) sluggish and seemingly arbitrary procedures for reviewing iPhone applications for inclusion in the App Store have been struggling to find a way to get their complaints heard.

Now Jonathan Zdziarski, one of the original iPhone hackers and the author of several O’Reilly books, has hit on something that might work.

It’s an open letter to Steve Jobs pleading with Apple’s CEO to speed up approval of the Amber Alert iPhone app that’s been sitting in the queue since February 14. The application uses GPS location information to funnel sightings of missing children to the nearest law enforcement agency as quickly as possible.

Zdziarski makes his case better than I could, so I’ll just reprint his letter below.

To: Steve Jobs’ Executive Team

From: Jonathan Zdziarski

Subject: AMBER Alert Application

Steve,

The need to send this email represents everything that is wrong with your App Store review process. I’ve been working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to build an App Store application that revolutionizes how missing children are reported to law enforcement. By using the iPhone’s GPS and some geo-analytics, we’re able to build automated search radii and quickly relay sightings to law enforcement agencies. With an audience of millions of iPhone users, the missing kids that are out there stand to gain a LOT more exposure.

Yet nearly a month has passed since my February 14th submission, and the application continues to sit “In Review”. NCMEC has adapted their infrastructure to handle these submissions and has a call center trained to respond to them, as well as their CIO, regional directors, and many others ready to devote time to making this application successful – yet this entire team continues to wait on Apple to approve this application.

I won’t get into the politics of the App Store review process, or my beliefs about how this has hurt your relationship with independent developers. Instead, I’m simply asking that you pick up the phone and help push this application through. If you had to sit and look at these kids, as I have in the time I did developing and testing this application, you’d realize just how urgent it is to have an application like this be able to get information out (and sightings back in). As a developer and a human being, I’m anxious to see this application released. If I were the parent of one of these missing children, I would be unable to withstand the unreasonable delays Apple has taken in approving this application. The reprobate and fearful world these children are surviving in may very well be prolonged because of Apple’s lack of interest in independent developers like me.

Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss this. Otherwise, I hope you’ll do the right thing and light a fire under someone’s seat in the App Store. If there is any application that should be getting reviewed today, this is it.

Jonathan Zdziarski

Apple has not yet responded to our request for comment.

Thanks to iPhone World for bringing the letter to our attention.

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