iPhone developer Dan B. wanted to know if Apple would reject his application based on the name he wanted to use for his app.
So he did what you'd expect a sane developer to do. He wrote Apple. He used one of his technical support incidents to speak with the Apple Developer Technical Support teams and waited for them to reply.
They were quite prompt in answering, redirecting his question to the iPhone App Review Team.
Thank you for contacting Apple Developer Technical Support. We provide support for code-level questions on hardware & software development, and are unable to help you with your app naming question.
Please contact the iPhone App Review Team for assistance. You can contact them directly at [address redacted].
While you were initially charged a technical support incident for this request, we have assigned a replacement incident back to your account.
I hope this information is helpful to you.
So Dan contacted the App Review team. And they wrote back too.
Thank you for contacting the iPhone Developer Program. This email address is for inquiries regarding status of application submissions.
Apple is not able to provide pre-approval to developers for proposed application submissions.
We ask that you please review the Program License Agreement details against the specific application you wish to develop and submit any applications for App Store consideration in line with the application submission processes for the program.
If your application does in fact get rejected by the app review team, then we will notify you on what appropriate corrections/changes should be made.
So what's a developer to do? It seems like the only way to vet an application (let alone an application name) is to submit it and see whether Apple rejects it or not. If the name is used in the application art, you might have to redesign your screens. If the application idea is not okay, you might end up throwing away all your development costs because Apple would not give a preapproval before starting serious development.
Dan's problem reflects a wider problem with Apple's App Store black box. Developers should be able to pay for support incidents for exactly this kind of situation. It appears that Apple does offer this high level of consultation to partners and other companies that they work with (even to the point of having Phil Schiller call Google directly to discuss the progress for the Google Voice app review). Shouldn't they offer a similar kind of service to smaller developers?
Have you been able to get these kinds of answers out of Apple? If so, how did you approach the matter? Let us know in the comments...