Today I had one of those what-the-heck software moments that occurs when a program breaks where it's least expected. A premier feature in the iPhone application I was tinkering with had vanished after a version update.
1Password for iPhone, first reviewed by my colleague Josh Lowensohn, is better known by its Mac counterpart, which encrypts log-ons and passwords on the Mac and automatically fills them in on Web pages. Windows users can think of it as the rough equivalent to RoboForm.
Since a smooth move like that requires multiple programs to run concurrently--something presently prohibited for iPhone applications--1Password for iPhone sports a work-around. Rather than leave the application to sign on to a page from Safari, 1Password launches an in-application Web browser from a log-in detail page. Clicking the icon of a keyhole and then clicking the site name will auto-fill the log-in information, therefore getting by that pesky lack of program multitasking still plaguing the iPhone.
Those last two steps are superfluous in my opinion, but what's worse is that the procedure failed. Over and over again. Could the publisher have pulled the feature? Not likely as long as the Web site is still boasting native iPhone support for autofill. So what happened?
It turns out that Dave Teare, co-founder of Agile Web Solutions, 1Password's publisher, had some trouble with the latest release and discovered the mistake after already submitting buggy version 1.3 to the iTunes App Store for approval. Now 1Password for iPhone is stripped of the gem in its password-protecting crown and will remain so until Apple busts version 1.3.2 free from iTunes purgatory, a process that will take anywhere from three days to a week.
Ahem. That's what happens when you let someone else rule the release of your software. Apple's tight control over the contents of the App Store is ordinarily an understandable check against malicious software and bogus software, but in this case, it curbs the publisher's ability to push emergency fixes. This shift in the power dynamic will either: demand greater quality on the publishers' end; feed a few tech scandals when buggy software slips by; create some truly naggy and disgruntled developers and marketers; or all of the above.
I have to wonder if the iTunes team has considered priority accounts like Google AdWords or emergency-attention surcharges like UPS and FedEx. Probably. As long as iPhones are hot and the applications are hotter, future iPhone application flubs by furrowed-brow publishers could become a lucrative opportunity to sell premium customer service.
At any rate, those of you who have already updated your 1Password iPhone application to version 1.3 can still enjoy other fixes, like the newly-instituted capability to delete entries and hide passwords in editing view; a panel that displays your log-on info to manually enter it in the browser window; and a security setting to swallow up the 1Password browser's cookies.