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Old Nov 23, 2009, 05:47 AM   #1
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Phil Schiller Defends App Store Approval Process



Despite the massive success of the App Store, the actual app approval process has been a constant source of criticism for Apple. A couple of well known developers have recently quit from developing iPhone apps altogether due to the process. Businessweek recently interviewed Apple's senior vice-president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller who predictably defends the process:
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"We've built a store for the most part that people can trust," he says. "You and your family and friends can download applications from the store, and for the most part they do what you'd expect, and they get onto your phone, and you get billed appropriately, and it all just works."
Schiller goes on break down the major types of rejections. He explains that 90% of rejections are due to technical errors or bugs while 10% of rejections are due to inappropriate or illegal content. Meanwhile <1% of app rejections fall into a legal gray area that require additional research before they can make a decision. One example of such an application was one that teaches you how to cheat at gambling in casinos (in this case, it was rejected).

The source of frustration for developers have frequently come from inconsistent review standards and vague communications from Apple. Apple has been making some efforts to improve the transparency of the approval process, but obviously not enough yet to fully appease many developers.

Article Link: Phil Schiller Defends App Store Approval Process

Last edited by Doctor Q; Nov 23, 2009 at 12:25 PM.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 05:49 AM   #2
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There are problems with the App Store, but the benefits have greatly outweighed the problems IMO.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 05:54 AM   #3
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I just wish they'd offer a refund service. That's the only flaw I can come up with - and maybe video previews in the store to see footage.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 06:08 AM   #4
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I just wish they'd offer a refund service.
Nah. It's a buyer beware market. For something under $5, is it really worth it to set up that type of infrastructure? It's an administrative nightmare.

If the app has no reviews, their support website is non-existent, and they don't offer a free "trial" version, you are taking you chances. It's like buying a no-name DVD player from Ed's House Of Bargain Electronics.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 06:13 AM   #5
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Cheat at gambling you say?
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 06:24 AM   #6
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Good, but..

As a developer, I think it's good but there's definitely still some issues.

I have 6 apps live, and have done quite a few updates over the last year, and it's all gone very smoothly until my last app. Previously, everything was approved first time, within a week.

The issue with my last app was my fault (I used a private API by mistake, fair enough..) but I take some issue with the way apple dealt with it.

What should have happened: they test the app, reject it, and give me a list of faults to correct. I resubmit, it gets accepted.

What did happen: they tested it, and gave me 1 issue to correct. I fixed it, resubmitted, and they rejected it with 2 more issues (both were present in the first version). I corrected, resubmitted, now I'm praying it goes through first time! It's taken around 6 weeks already.

Another (major) issue is updates. Previously, if you updated your app if would appear in the 'latest released' list. This means if you update your app regularly you're rewarded with a short spike in sales. This spike for me usually pays for the time I take to improve my products.

Now, updates no longer appear in the list. No extra income from updating your apps. Because of this, it's no longer worth me adding new features to some of my apps, and my customers will suffer (one emailed me just 2 days ago requesting a new feature, I was going to add it - now, I won't because it's worth $0 and it'll take up my time!)
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 06:27 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by psonice View Post
What did happen: they tested it, and gave me 1 issue to correct. I fixed it, resubmitted, and they rejected it with 2 more issues (both were present in the first version). I corrected, resubmitted, now I'm praying it goes through first time! It's taken around 6 weeks already.
That is the bit I cringe over, I feel bad for you developers when this happens.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 06:31 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by psonice View Post

Now, updates no longer appear in the list. No extra income from updating your apps. Because of this, it's no longer worth me adding new features to some of my apps, and my customers will suffer (one emailed me just 2 days ago requesting a new feature, I was going to add it - now, I won't because it's worth $0 and it'll take up my time!)
That was changed at the request of developers who complained that some were spamming the release list with minor updates just to keep an app on the "latest releases" list.

I think you need to reexamine your cost-benefit analysis. Under the current system, yes, a new feature will not generate new sales at the same rate because you don't get kicked to the top of the release chart again. On the other hand, adding features and fixing bugs helps maintain a positive relationship with your existing clients, who presumably count first in your potential audience for future unrelated releases.

Many of the comments associated with low user ratings in the store relate to non-responsive developers who don't reply to support requests and don't update their apps.

So it cuts both ways.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 06:32 AM   #9
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At a guess, I can see where there might be gaps between what a developer has put there in an app submitted for approval, and what Apple considers to be the minimum requirements for that app, and that this can only be assessed once the app is submitted, and once their people review it. This can get complicated, and evaluating the various checkpoints can be both subjective and controversial.

A point which seems to go easily missing--especially to those developers who are anxious to start making money--is that, with the App Store, Apple has assumed the role of "publisher." As such, it has a responsibility to review and evaluate exactly what it publishes. It has to establish standards for what is acceptable--standards which may seem too arbitrary, especially to a developer who has worked long and hard on his "book." Beyond the various judgement calls considering moral or ethical standards, there are the technical considerations in order to maintain the smooth functioning of the device in it various modes of phone, media player, etc. Without these standard the iPhone would devolve into the "openness" of its gadget competition such as the Droid, Pre, and other gizmos.

We hear complaints from a few, which the press tries to inflate by reporting again and again on the same incidents, in order to produce what they think is the essential "controversy." But if the system were indeed seriously flawed, I would think that, for one thing, there wouldn't be the impressive 100+K number of apps, and for another, that there would be a LOT more press from many more disgruntled developers.

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Old Nov 23, 2009, 06:32 AM   #10
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"appease developers"?! good lord. I'm surprised anyone would spend time or money developing an app that could be rejected out of hand...
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 06:38 AM   #11
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95% of these people that have the iPhone don't give two nickels about the approval process. And I think that for those developers who get porked in the deal, while they might not enjoy being rejected......from a business aspect, I'm sure they "get it".

In order to be on top Apple knew they'd have to play to the least common denominator, which is the youngins. Make it safe, if it's safe it has a larger profitability chance.


What I find ironic is all these free loving hippie folks that are government loving regulators of public policy, want these companies to become less regulated laissez-faire type of companies.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 06:39 AM   #12
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A couple of well known developers have recently quit from developing iPhone apps altogether due to the process.
Meaning who else except a guy from Facebook?
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 06:39 AM   #13
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I had to wait 6 weeks for them to reject my lite version for having 'inappropriate' keyword: 'wifi'. It was because the lite version never had wifi, but the full version did. I dont mind the reject, but to have to wait 6 weeks make a 2 second change and then resubmit, its not acceptable.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 06:44 AM   #14
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I dont know what they are mooning about really. App store is huge and secured and that what, from perspective of buyer, its important. Plus if app is popular developer can make loads of money instantly and that alone is worth any issues for approval process.
I think Apple approach to that is right. I am scared to think what will happened soon or later with Android "open source" app store<----welcome in world of malware etc.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 06:53 AM   #15
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I tend to wonder how difficult it can be to clearly state the rules and then to actually follow them, plus how much investigative work is actually done? There really should be no rejections based on anything other than technical issues. If the rules have been clearly stated then everyone can follow them and none of the issues that have been raised over the past 18-months would have happened. There is no denying that some of the rejections have been completely ridiculous and there was nothing in the rules to indicate that what the developer was doing was "wrong".

We'll see how things work out in the long term but I'd certainly be wary of developing for a platform where my work could be rejected because of an unwritten rule or because the reviewer has made their own interpretation of the rules.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 07:00 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ipoppy View Post
I dont know what they are mooning about really. App store is huge and secured and that what, from perspective of buyer, its important. Plus if app is popular developer can make loads of money instantly and that alone is worth any issues for approval process.
I think you meant "moaning"; "Mooning" means something rather different. But I can quite understand why developers are complaining. Sure, the App Store is popular but does that really excuse the issues? Why are there issues in the first place? Do you really think it is acceptable to have issues still after 18-months of this? I find it baffling that applications that have already been accepted can have updates rejected despite the offending parts having already been approved in earlier releases. I find it even more baffling that some people seem to think that this is OK and that developers shouldn't complain...
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 07:01 AM   #17
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Meaning who else except a guy from Facebook?
There was Rogue Amoeba last week and that's a real loss given the great work they do on the Mac.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 07:27 AM   #18
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Eventually the Q/A procedures will give back better feedback. They have to deal with so much volume. From my experience at work, Q/A and developers don't get along anyways. It is interesting to hear about some of the apps that are rejected like the gambling app.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 07:30 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by nickhutson View Post
I just wish they'd offer a refund service. That's the only flaw I can come up with - and maybe video previews in the store to see footage.
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Originally Posted by guytoronto View Post
Nah. It's a buyer beware market. For something under $5, is it really worth it to set up that type of infrastructure? It's an administrative nightmare.

If the app has no reviews, their support website is non-existent, and they don't offer a free "trial" version, you are taking you chances. It's like buying a no-name DVD player from Ed's House Of Bargain Electronics.
On the Android Market you can get a full and automated refund for a purchased app any time within the first 24hrs of having bought it. It's not complicated.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 07:32 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by dmjossel View Post
That was changed at the request of developers who complained that some were spamming the release list with minor updates just to keep an app on the "latest releases" list.

I think you need to reexamine your cost-benefit analysis. Under the current system, yes, a new feature will not generate new sales at the same rate because you don't get kicked to the top of the release chart again. On the other hand, adding features and fixing bugs helps maintain a positive relationship with your existing clients, who presumably count first in your potential audience for future unrelated releases.

Many of the comments associated with low user ratings in the store relate to non-responsive developers who don't reply to support requests and don't update their apps.

So it cuts both ways.
Yeah, I know where you're coming from, but seriously this will affect the quality of my work in future. I know a guy who also writes iphone apps, but puts out some real crap - he gets bad ratings, yes, but doesn't really care because he's still making good money. I do actually know a guy like this, he's a friend of a friend. I'll show you how our methods compare, up to now:

Me: I spend the time writing a decent app. It gets good initial sales, then if I'm lucky it gets into the charts and continues to sell at an OK level. If not, it sinks from the charts and my income disappears.

Updates - if it's out of the chart, an update would give me another income boost, paying for the time. If it's in the chart, the income boost is minor, but it helps me to stay ahead of the competition (or catch up if they go past me..)

Other guy: He spends as little time as possible, makes something that sounds good or useful, and gets a decent spike of initial sales. Then people realise it's rubbish and get angry, but he's already well into the next one.

Updates: A quick spelling fix or minor change took a few minutes and sold more apps.

After the recent change, the other guy will just continue writing crap, and getting paid for it. He won't bother with updates, but he'll probably make 2x more apps instead.

For me, if I update now it'll keep my existing customers happy (no income here), which will improve my rating. That will help keep my app in the charts a little longer, but if my app is decent in the first place it'll make very little difference. The extra income will be small. It won't help me to stay ahead of competitors or catch up any more too, because you need an additional sales boost to do that, and that no longer happens. If my app is out of the charts, it'll make zero difference.

Just to emphasise that, I just updated one of my apps that was out of the charts. Normally, that would earn me a reasonable amount of money and put me back in the chart for a while. This time, i had zero additional sales. Not one. Sales were actually down on last week. Will I update that again? No.

See what I mean? I won't bother updating in future, as much as it pains me to do it (I do actually care about my customers - that last update had 2 new features requested by cusomters!) there's no incentive. If I spend the time on a new app I'll make some actual money instead.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 07:35 AM   #21
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I refuse to develop for the iPhone because I don't want to deal with arbitrary rejection reasons, waiting weeks to get patches in, dealing with name squatters, being restricted from using other SDKs, and being silenced from iPhone development discussions except for the most basic of things. Frankly, I'm surprised the app store is as popular as it is, considering all the draconian policies. And people think Microsoft is bad?

What the app store is doing here is setting a dangerous precedent, where software developers are at the mercy of a corporation.

Last edited by Ranma13; Nov 23, 2009 at 07:47 AM.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 07:37 AM   #22
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I submitted my first app back in September and then completely stopped development on it because I wasn't going to waste my time if it wouldn't get approved. After two rejections for some quite ridiculous reasons it was suddenly approved about six weeks later.

I've since had to catch up with the major bugs that were in the 1.0 release but due to being so uncertain of the App Store approval process the users had to wait until last Friday to get it fixed. Fortunately the update only took one week to approve.

So the App Store approval process is not just hurting us developers, it's also hurting the end user.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 07:45 AM   #23
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Paul Graham said it all

Paul Graham said it all:

http://www.paulgraham.com/apple.html

"The way Apple runs the App Store has harmed their reputation with programmers more than anything else they've ever done."

But my favorite part is this:

"In the past when I bought things from Apple it was an unalloyed pleasure. Oh boy! They make such great stuff. This time it felt like a Faustian bargain. They make such great stuff, but they're such *******s. Do I really want to support this company?"
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 07:47 AM   #24
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One example of such an application was one that teaches you how to cheat at gambling in casinos
I don't know anything about the app in question (since, of course, it was rejected), but I can only imagine that such an app would have done one thing: teach people to count cards playing Blackjack.

Which is not cheating!

In and of itself, it's perfectly acceptable to track the deck. What is not acceptable is communicating that count to someone else or having mechanical/electronic assistance in keeping count or making decisions.

And, in any event, the casinos have now worked around that bug by using continuous shufflers (meaning that there's no count to keep because the cards you were dealt last hand might come back again next hand).

Teaching someone how to count cards is not illegal, and since counting isn't illegal in and of itself, a teaching aid is neither illegal nor tortuous.

I suspect the real reason the app was rejected was that it was unsavory. Which is a shame, because I doubt anyone would have given it any notice had it been approved. Instead, it's now a bullet point in the store's approval controversy.
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Old Nov 23, 2009, 07:54 AM   #25
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There was Rogue Amoeba last week and that's a real loss given the great work they do on the Mac.
Yeah, the Rogue Amoeba rejection was stupid.

Rogue Amoeba develop some great software for OS X, that improves the way many users use their computers. Not having them develop for iPhone is a shame.
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