Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Pop Out Timer Rejected From the App Store

Jeremy Provost:

Pop Out Timer is an app that plays a video of a timer using Picture in Picture so the timer is always on screen. It has been available in the App Store for over 2 years. It has gone through 20+ rounds of App Review approval. Our most recent update has been rejected for undocumented and arbitrary reasons. And our request for a bug fix update was denied for undocumented and arbitrary reasons.


We were told repeatedly on the phone that everything is handled on a “case-by-case basis”. When we proposed a potential solution (one that would require significant time and effort on our part, essentially re-writing and re-purposing the entire app) we were told that we would have to do that work and submit and only then would they tell us if it was an acceptable use of Picture in Picture. That’s open and transparent?


We asked App Review if YouTube had a timer video on their website would it be allowed (hint: they already exist). We were told that would not be a problem for YouTube. How is that treating every developer the same?

While we’re talking about YouTube, they only allow Picture in Picture for their Premium subscribers, seemingly violating 3.2.2 ii of the App Review Guidelines by forcing users to pay for something that is a built-in capability provided by the operating system.

Marco Arment:

YouTube locking iOS picture-in-picture behind Premium is indeed a violation of 3.2.2, but that’s almost never enforced (or particularly enforceable).

It’s only marginally more enforceable than 4.5.4 (no promotional notifications), which is never enforced.

Scott Buscemi:

Enforce App Store rules and do not allow ads in notifications. Or at least require them to be an option.

Tim Schmitz:

I got rejected for violating 3.2.2 a few years ago. As a tiny developer, there was nothing I could do about it. It’s super frustrating to see Apple make a huge stink about some rules, let others slide for big developers, then claim they treat everyone the same.

Ryan Jones:

Did you know Background Audio has been a premium YouTube feature for years? Maybe 3-4 years actually. Same exact violation.

David Barnard:

Apple should really put this in writing, but they have consistently approved bundling system features for years.

And it really does make sense. Widgets and complications are crazy expensive for apps like weather apps, being able to bundle those features as part of a subscription is the only way I can offer those in @Weather_Up_. YouTube can’t show ads in PiP.


Update (2021-01-04): Jeremy Provost (tweet):

After back and forth with Beta App Review, attempting to appease them as best we could, another rejection, a lot of back and forth with App Review (and a blog post), a crashing bug caused by iOS 14.2 (with all the emails and negative reviews that go along with that), an official appeal, a few phone calls, an official “suggested change to an App Review guideline”, an email, and finally a voicemail with the good news: Pop Out Timer 3.1.4 is now live in the App Store. It’s a relief after a stressful 4 months.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

"we were told that we would have to do that work and submit and only then would they tell us if it was an acceptable use ..."

Didn't Apple once offer a "pre-approval" process for app ideas, so you could get an idea whether it would be acceptable before you went to all the trouble of building the thing?

For some reason I'm sure I heard that was a thing, but I can't seem to find any reference to it today, so maybe I'm just imagining it.

@Ted I think they will half-answer. You can ask them whether something is acceptable, and they either say “no” or “build it and then submit it for review,” which is no guarantee of anything.

The whole process is very frustrating. Often they won’t even tell you what you have to do to play by their rules (“We can’t accept this, because this is against guideline X.Y.Z, but we won’t tell you what exactly is wrong and what you have to do to get accepted”). Sometimes you submit an update with different changes and the initially raised issue transforms into an non-issue.

To work with Apple review sometimes feels like working with a crazy dictator on drugs.

Apple never had a pre-approval program. Console manufacturers do have such programs, though. Maybe you're confusing one with the other.

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