Corrupted Updates Found In Apples App Store
July 5, 2012

Corrupted Updates Found In Apples App Store

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

At first, it seemed as if only Marco Arment´s popular read-later app, Instapaper, was experiencing some serious problems. After his latest update (version 4.2.3) went live in Apple´s App Store and began making its way to the wild, many Instapaper users started to complain that the app would crash as soon as they opened it. Arment was confused, but began to investigate the issue. Less than an hour later, Arment realized many other developers were having the same problems with their apps. The binaries, or the original app files, coming from Apple´s App Store were corrupted, affecting only certain apps in certain regions. For instance, app updates in certain parts of the UK and US were affected, yet there were no issues in Australia.

Arment tells the story on his blog, “Last night, within minutes of Apple approving the Instapaper 4.2.3 update, I was deluged by support email and Twitter messages from customers saying that it crashed immediately on launch, even with a clean install.”

Arment said the app had worked on his end before he submitted it to Apple and even afterwards as he checked it in Xcode. “This didn´t make sense – obviously, Apple had reviewed it, and it worked for them.”

After researching the issue, Arment discovered some similarities in these instances on a number of apps, such as the app will crash every time, users might get errors 8324 or 8326 when updating in iTunes, and the issues only affect users in certain regions.

The iOS App Store isn´t the only marketplace experiencing these issues, as updates from the Mac App Store have also been displaying the same, crashing behaviors.

“I emailed App Review less than an hour after the update went live and yelled about it on Twitter. About two hours after the update went live, a correct, functional version of it started being distributed on reinstalls. As far as I know, the problem hasn´t recurred since then.”

Though Arment is one of Apple´s more popular app developers, he isn´t sure if the problem simply worked itself out naturally, or if his complaining quickened a correction. Apple notoriously doesn´t publicly address these kinds of issues without waiting a few days or weeks.

In all of Arment´s research, he heard reports of this crashing behavior happening on updates issued since the beginning of this week, from July 3rd to today.

The developers of GoodReader for iPad have also noted these problems, blaming Apple´s distribution engine for the buggy updates.

“After investigating this issue, we've discovered that the update itself is fully functional. It appears that Apple has recently changed something in their app distribution engine, and ever since that change there are ongoing problems at Apple's end. These problems result in a number of customers receiving a damaged binary which doesn't start after updating apps on their devices.”

The GoodReader developers have even discovered the issue doesn´t just occur on recent updates, but on multiple versions.

Just as Arment noted, the app binaries seem to clean themselves up after few hours. If a user downloads one of these bad updates, they should be able to delete and reinstall after a few hours to get a functional version.

Arment is still waiting to hear an official word from Apple on this issue. This problem comes at a particularly bad time for Arment, as his app has been receiving some major press lately, namely a paid spot on the Howard Stern Show, as well as being featured as the Starbucks free app of the week. Marco even recently dropped the price of his app to $3.99 as an “experiment” to see if more people would buy his app.

As such, Arment is suggesting that other app developers wait a few days for this issue to be fixed before submitting any minor app updates. Closing his blog entry, Arment writes: “Because if this happens to you, all of your most active users, the people who will install updates within hours of them becoming available, will be stopped in their tracks. They´ll think you´re careless, incompetent, and sloppy for issuing a release that doesn´t work. And they´ll leave you a lot of angry 1-star reviews.”