Friday, August 27, 2021

Hopscotch Going Through App Store Review

Samantha John:

We submitted a bug fix update to Hopscotch this weekend. We wanted to get it out quickly to get ahead of the school year--schools don’t update their apps very often after downloading them.

The app was rejected because “our promoted in-app purchases had identical titles and descriptions which could be confusing to users.”

Makes sense as a guideline, except our titles and descriptions were different! Nonetheless, I changed the descriptions to be even more different than the titles. I replied to the message and resubmitted the app.

A day later, the app was rejected again. At this point, I didn’t know what to do. I was in a Kafkaesque universe where I had to blindly guess at what could be wrong and randomly change things until the bureaucrats let me through (with a one-day delay).


There’s a lot of talk about the 30% tax that Apple takes from every app on the App Store. The time tax on their developers to deal with this unfriendly behemoth of a system is just as bad if not worse.


I don’t know what’s worse: an automated system with zero human oversight continually telling me (falsely) that our app is out of compliance.

Or some person named Leo continually pressing the reject button without ever bothering to read my message because the automated system said that I was wrong.

Dimitri Bouniol:

The amount of friction we have as Apple platform developers (both in terms of developer relations and resources) far surpasses what the most profitable and mature platforms should have. It really is a shame apple doesn’t realize the amount of built-up goodwill it erodes daily.

Dermot Daly:

App Tracking Transparency rules seem a mess. We had an app rejected for claiming it’s business model was enticing the user into tracking (it wasn’t). We had 3 calls with the App Review team who eventually agreed and then expedited the review. That was 2 months back. And today, we submitted a minor bug fix. Guess what? Rejected for the same reason as a couple of months back.

I appealed.

“A representative from the app review team will call you in 3 to 5 business days”

A year ago, Apple announced that “bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues,” but in practice it seems like nothing has changed.

John Gruber:

The thing that really gets me about this story is that Hopscotch is a great, well-established, award-winning app.

Rich Siegel:

I currently have a bug-fix update held up because of a profoundly incorrect rejection. The reviewer didn’t understand a feature that’s been in @bbedit since 2002. The behavior isn’t what the reviewer claimed.

Cabel Sasser:

With the exception of maybe Uber and Airbnb, App Review isn’t kidding when they say they treat all developers the same, as every good app in the App Store, no matter how beloved, has at least five horror stories just like this

Ged Maheux:

We have more of them then we can count at the factory. Maybe we should start documenting them cause honestly I can’t keep them all straight in my head.

Update (2021-08-27): Steve Troughton-Smith:

I had that with a recent update. “If you’d like to avail of <the new policy>, just reply to this message”. They wanted me to add a new menu item into my Mac app in a bug fix update.

Mitch Cohen:

I had a recent experience that went mostly well. My app contains a frowned-upon case not in the usual test flow. The app was eventually rejected. I appealed. I had a nice call with App Review. They allowed the build to go through with a promise a future build would have a fix.

Update (2021-09-07): Jonathan Deutsch:

My spam call software also blocked an important App Store call in the past. For this reason I disabled it and now deal with the interruptions of 1-2 robo calls from 408 numbers each day as a Just In Case™.

This too is the Apple Tax.

Lily Scott:

Had a similar experience as an app developer in the past. We couldn’t fix a critical issue affecting our users for almost a month because Apple was rejecting every app submission with vague reasoning.

A couple months later, Apple released a direct competitor to our product.

Samantha John:

Update: to Apple’s credit, they called me last night to apologize and ask for feedback. Who knows if they’ll actually implement it, but at least they are listening. What would *you* change about the App Store review process?


Measure success by the time for an app to get approved, not just the time for the developer to get a response.

Nilay Patel:

People keep tweeting this thread with “Apple needs to fix this” and…. no, they don’t need to do anything. That’s what lock-in and monopolies allow for! If anyone could compete for these developers Apple would have an actual incentive to change.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

So... Gruber thinks that different devs deserves different treatment.

"App Review isn’t kidding when they say they treat all developers the same"

I'm pretty sure Roblox doesn't have to deal with this garbage. So just exploit children for monetary gain, and you'll sail right through.

"Gruber thinks that different devs deserves different treatment"

That's not what he said. His point is clearly that if even well-known, well-respected apps get treated poorly, there's no chance for less well-known devs.

But if his point were that different devs deserve to be treated differently, then he'd be right. An app like Hopscotch deserves to be treated better than an app like Roblox. The problem is that currently, the opposite is true.

Apple has choice:

1. Fix this mess.
2. Let the government fix it.

They won't like number 2, but they apparently think that is highly unlikely. It is of course, until it isn't.

I general dislike government regulation, but in this case I'm making an exception.

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