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Here’s why you can see that iPhone app, but can’t yet grab it

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When Apple released the Google Maps app on Wednesday night, there was a rush to download it by iOS users. But many found that while the app appeared to be there, it really wasn’t.

If you did a search in the App Store, you would have come up empty-handed. If you had a direct link to it, clicking it brought you to the Info page with screen shots and the app’s description. But if you tried to download it, you likely got this error message:

cantbuy

Later in the evening, this problem cleared up, though some continued to experience it. Some users reported not being able to find the app in a search as late as this morning.

While it was frustrating to those who have been anxiously awaiting the return of Google Maps to iOS, the delay wasn’t unusual. The inability to find a just-posted app in search, and being unable to download it if you find it, is a common occurrence.

What’s going on here? I asked Apple, and a spokesperson provided details.

The App Store is hosted on many, many servers. When an app is posted to the store, it takes a while for the app to be saved to each one of those servers. When you click on a direct link, you may see the Info page for the app, but the file itself may not have made it onto the server you’re accessing. (The text and screenshots for the Info page are much smaller than the file itself, so they are propagated across servers more quickly.)

The same thing is true with the app-search function. It takes a while for Apple’s system to create an index that points to where the app can be found on all the servers that comprise the App Store.

The spokesperson said because it takes a long time to complete this process of making the app available, apps that are expected to be very popular are often posted late in the evening, so they’re available across Apple’s system by the time the U.S. East Coast starts waking up. Of course, if it’s an app as highly anticipated as Google Maps, demand hits immediately.

Categories: General
Dwight Silverman | Techblogger, social media manager

2 Responses

  1. samisam says:

    I’m VERY impressed. the GPS functionality in this app is awesome. You really can’t ask for more since maps and such are updated, sound notifications (even if you don’t have the 4s) and bluetooth integration (for people with car phones) is what topped it off for me. I give google an A for this app.