Tuesday, March 1, 2016

App Review Needs Big Improvements

Graham Spencer:

Inconsistency from App Review was another major recurring theme in the survey responses. Numerous developers gave examples where App Review had approved an update containing new features, only to reject a subsequent update for those features which had previously been approved. The most frustrating of those examples were when the update was a bug fix – meaning the developer, trying to quickly resolve an issue for their users, would now have to take more time either modifying their app to comply or appeal the decision (which may not succeed).

One such example was when a small bug fix led to App Review rejecting an app because it required registration. But the app, which had been on the App Store for five years, had always required registration and all of their competitors did the same thing. In the end the app was approved, but it took about a month of appeals and several phone calls to Apple from the developer.

Most concerning was the idea, alluded to in a few of the responses, that some apps were being left to stagnate and die because developers felt that going through App Review again was too risky. These developers felt it was better to just let the app die slowly than risk going through what they feel is an inconsistent App Review, which might reject a long-standing feature – the removal of which would instantly kill the utility of the app.


A few developers wrote in and described how an app had been stuck in the App Review process for weeks and even months. What frustrated many of these developers was not just the excruciatingly long time in review, but the utter lack of communication from Apple as to why they were in App Review limbo. […] There is a mechanism for developers to send messages to the App Review team, but a common sentiment amongst those who commented on it was that it can often be (or at least appear to be) futile. One developer said App Review simply sends them “canned responses” and another developer even described the feeling of communicating with App Review as “like sending a message in a bottle”.


One developer had an app update held “in review” for 32 days. Whenever the developer contacted App Review during this time, they were told nothing was wrong. Eventually the developer contacted someone at Apple they knew and this resulted in a call back from someone in App Review. They asked the developer why they were using HomeKit devices that were unreleased and that the developer should not have access to. Only wrinkle was, the developer was not using any unreleased HomeKit devices.

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