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Posts tagged with "App Review"

John Gruber’s Explanation of the Apparent Prime Video Deal Between Apple and Amazon

Yesterday, as reported by 9to5Mac and other publications, Amazon updated its Prime Video app to permit video purchases and rentals without using Apple’s In-App Purchase system in some circumstances. It wasn’t clear what was going on at first because some users saw what looked like an Amazon checkout process, while others got an Apple checkout flow. To add to the confusion, Apple issued a statement that said Amazon Prime is using “an established program for premium subscription video entertainment providers.”

John Gruber did some investigating and has an excellent explanation on Daring Fireball on how the deal between Amazon and Apple seems to work. As Gruber explains, If you’re signed in to the Amazon Prime app with an Amazon account and are a full Prime or Prime Video member, renting or purchasing video uses an Amazon checkout process. Otherwise, Apple’s In-App Purchase system is used, which interestingly, can also be used to sign up for a Prime Video subscription.

Gruber makes a compelling and detailed case for what seems to be going on:

So the deal seems to be this:

  • The Prime Video app supports every feature that makes a third-party subscription video service a first-class citizen in Apple’s multi-device TV ecosystem.
  • For users with existing Prime subscriptions, or new subscriptions made on Amazon’s website, Amazon now gets to bill them directly for movie rentals and purchases made in the app, giving Apple no cut of the transactions.
  • Users can subscribe to Prime Video in-app using an iTunes subscription, giving Apple a recurring cut, and leaving subscription management in Apple’s hands.
  • For users without a Prime subscription, or with a Prime subscription made through the app, Amazon now bills them for purchases and rentals through Apple’s In-App Purchase mechanism, giving Apple a cut.

Based on a few reasonable assumptions, Gruber concludes that the deal is a win for Apple, Amazon, and also consumers who get a first-rate app experience that includes the ability to buy and rent TV shows and movies in the Prime Video app for the first time.

I hope we see more deals like this. Having Prime Video available in Apple’s TV app where it’s included in the Up Next section of the app and being able to rent and buy content without resorting to a web browser makes for a much better overall experience for users looking for something to watch.

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Apple Releases Guidance on Apps Related to COVID-19 and Explains How to Expedite Their Review

Today, on its developer site, Apple announced how its App Review team is evaluating apps related to COVID-19 to ensure that users can depend on such apps. Apple says:

The App Store should always be a safe and trusted place for users to download apps. Now more than ever that commitment takes on special significance as the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities around the world are depending on apps to be credible news sources — helping users understand the latest health innovations, find out where they can get help if needed or provide assistance to their neighbors.

To help fulfill these expectations, we’re evaluating apps critically to ensure data sources are reputable and that developers presenting these apps are from recognized entities such as government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions. Only developers from one of these recognized entities should submit an app related to COVID-19. Entertainment or game apps with COVID-19 as their theme will not be allowed.

Apple also encouraged developers of apps related to COVID-19 to select the ‘Time-Sensitive Event’ option when submitting an expedited review request, so their apps will be prioritized by App Review.

Overnight, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that retail stores outside Greater China will be closed until March 27th and shared details on the steps Apple is taking to protect the physical health of its employees and retail customers. With this latest announcement, Apple is tackling the pernicious effects of misinformation by pledging to keep it out if the App Store, so customers know they can rely on the apps they download.


CNBC Reports New Details About Apple’s App Review Team

App Review has been a black box for over a decade now, with virtually no details leaking out of Apple. That’s begun to change in 2019. Earlier this year, Mark Gurman interviewed Phillip Shoemaker, a former head of App Review, on Bloomberg’s Decrypted podcast where Shoemaker described what app review was like before he left the company around 2016.

Now, CNBC has additional and more recent details about App Review from unnamed sources within the organization. Many of the tidbits in CNBC’s report were previously shared by Shoemaker, but there are new details sprinkled throughout the piece about the organization and how apps are reviewed. For instance, CNBC reveals that:

Apple recently opened new App Review offices in Cork, Ireland, and Shanghai, China, according to a person familiar with the matter. The department has added significant headcount in recent years, they added.

CNBC also learned that:

The department has more than 300 reviewers and is based out of a pair of offices in Sunnyvale, California….

The report contains new details about the review process too:

Reviewers have daily quotas of between 50 and 100 apps, and the number of apps any individual reviewer gets through in an hour is tracked by software called Watchtower, according to screenshots seen by CNBC. Reviewers are also judged on whether their decisions are later overturned and other quality-oriented stats.

App Review is part of Apple’s developer relations organization run by Phil Schiller, the company’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing. Like other developer problems raised with front-line developer relations personnel, App Review decisions are escalated through the organization when an appeal is made:

Developers who disagree with a decision made by App Review can appeal to a board called the App Review Board, which can change the decision from a lower-level reviewer and is partially composed of reviewers with good track records, people who worked as reviewers said. Sustained appeals can bring an app in front of the Executive Review Board.

CNBC reports that the Executive Review Board, of which Schiller is a member, also handles sensitive app decisions like the decision to reject the Infowars app in 2018.

It’s curious that after years of almost no information about the App Review, details are beginning to emerge now. However, other than the size of the organization, which is smaller than I would have guessed, and revelation that App Review now operates in Ireland and China, the review process is about what I thought it was given that Apple has said in the past that each app is reviewed manually.

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Apple Defends App Store Practices in Light of Antitrust Discourse

Apple has been in the news at several points this year due to claims that its App Store practices are monopolistic. First, Spotify filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission, then more recently, the US Supreme Court ruled that an antitrust lawsuit against Apple could proceed, setting the stage for potential future battles in this space.

Today Apple has launched a new page on its website defending its App Store practices and sharing the values that lie at the core of the Store.

It’s our store. And we take responsibility for it.

We believe that what’s in our store says a lot about who we are. We strongly support all points of view being represented on the App Store. But we also take steps to make sure apps are respectful to users with differing opinions, and reject apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line — especially when it puts children at risk. For example, we strictly prohibit any app that features pornographic material, discriminatory references, torture and abuse, or anything else in exceptionally poor taste.

The page shares specific details on App Review practices, including the following stats:

  • Every week, 100,000 apps are reviewed
  • Of those 100,000, 60% are approved, and 40% rejected
  • The most common rejections are due to bugs, followed by privacy concerns
  • The App Review team makes ~1,000 calls per week to developers to help resolve rejection issues

Apple also outlines the different business models apps can utilize on the App Store, and notes that 84% of apps are free. It’s unclear if this percentage includes apps with In-App Purchases and subscriptions.

Finally, the page closes by highlighting how Apple welcomes competition on the App Store. System apps like Calendar, Mail, and Apple Music are listed alongside popular third-party competitors; Fantastical, Spark, and Spotify are a few third-party alternatives that Apple singles out.

The timing of Apple launching this new page is no accident: next week the company will welcome thousands of developers to WWDC, and in light of the growing questions regarding App Store practices, Apple is reminding developers, and the world at large, of why the App Store as it stands today is so important.


Apple Clarifies App Review Guidelines to Promote Free Trial Options

It’s tough selling a paid up front app on the App Store. Users have no way of knowing ahead of time whether an app will fit their needs or not, and no one wants to spend money on an app only to find that it wasn’t what they expected. Fortunately, App Store review guidelines have been updated this week to address that problem. Matthew Humphries reports for PCMag:

The updated guidelines state that, “Non-subscription apps may offer a free time-based trial period before presenting a full unlock option by setting up a Non-Consumable IAP item at Price Tier 0 that follows the naming convention: “14-day Trial.” Prior to the start of the trial, your app must clearly identify its duration, the content or services that will no longer be accessible when the trial ends, and any downstream charges the user would need to pay for full functionality.”

So users will know before they start using an app that it will cost money, but only after X days of free use. The upfront transparency should prevent any user frustration, but it could also greatly improve the quality of content in apps because the developer really needs the user to reach the end of the free trial wanting to pay to continue using/playing.

This isn’t necessarily a change of policy, but more an explicit clarification of something that’s already been allowed. The Omni Group, for example, began switching its entire suite of apps in September 2016 to the same sales model: free downloads, with In-App Purchases for unlocking full functionality after 14-day trial periods. Since that time, however, very few apps have followed the same path – likely in part due to continued uncertainty regarding what’s officially allowed. The updated review guidelines should lead to a welcome increase of paid up front apps transitioning to free downloads with In-App Purchases, thus enabling more ubiquitous free trials across the App Store.


You can also follow all of our WWDC coverage through our WWDC 2018 hub, or subscribe to the dedicated WWDC 2018 RSS feed.

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Emoji Use in Apps Leading to App Store Rejections

Over the last several weeks, a few different emoji-related App Review stories have been shared by developers on Twitter. Though it’s common practice to use emoji throughout an app’s interface, Apple has begun rejecting some apps for just this reason.

Emojipedia founder Jeremy Burge researched the issue and summarized what seems to be a shift in Apple’s handling of emoji use. In a piece titled “Apple’s Emoji Crackdown” he walks through his current understanding of what’s permissible regarding emoji use, and what isn’t – though with the caveat that none of this has been officially addressed by Apple yet. He concludes:

It would be a shame to see emojis banished from all apps due to potentially over-zealous app reviewers.

Using an emoji as a core part of an app’s UI, or in-game character seems to be a fairly clear overstepping of the mark, and now that Apple has begun enforcing this, I don’t expect that side of things to change.

It’s understandable there is much confusion about this right now, especially as the Apple Color Emoji font until now has been treated by many as a font like any other. If…thought about as “a set of images created and owned by Apple”, the terms for what seems reasonable do shift.

Despite the lack of word from Apple on an official policy change, the signs don’t look good. Apple owns the rights to its emoji designs, and there is currently no way for developers to license those designs, so we may begin seeing a lot less emoji use in apps soon.

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Apple Updates and Expands App Store Review Guidelines to Address Pre-Orders, Loot Boxes, VPNs, and More

Just before the annual holiday shutdown of the App Store, Apple has revised its App Store Review Guidelines to address new App Store functionality like Pre-Orders and clarify or expand a handful of existing guidelines, including the creation of apps from templates and how ’loot boxes’ and VPNs should be handled. Below is a summary of the major changes to the Guidelines. To see all the changes, check out Rich Hong’s App Store Review Guidelines gist on GitHub.

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Apple Asks Developers to Submit iOS 11, watchOS 4, macOS High Sierra, and tvOS 11 Apps for Review

Ahead of the upcoming public releases of iOS 11 and watchOS 4 on September 19th and macOS High Sierra on September 25th, Apple has told developers via its developer website that App Store submissions are open.

From Apple’s developer news site:

You can now submit your apps that take advantage of exciting new features available in the next release of macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Build your apps using Xcode 9 GM seed, test with the latest releases of macOS High Sierra, iOS 11, watchOS 4, tvOS 11, and submit them for review.

Apple has added scores of new features to its operating systems that developers can take advantage of to improve existing apps and create all-new ones that were impossible before the new APIs were introduced. Perhaps most anticipated are the additions to iOS that enable brand new features to the iPad like the dock, drag and drop, Split View enhancements, and much more.


You can also follow all of our Apple event coverage through our September 12 hub, or subscribe to the dedicated September 12 RSS feed.


Review Guidelines Added for Subscriptions, Stickers, and SiriKit

On the heels of Apple’s announcement of an impending App Store cleanup, it has updated its App Review Guidelines to cover app subscriptions, stickers, and SiriKit apps. Among other guidelines, Section 3.1.2(a) states that:

While the following list is not exhaustive, examples of appropriate subscriptions include: new game levels; episodic content; multi-player support; apps that offer consistent, substantive updates; access to large collections of, or continually updated, media content; software as a service (“SAAS”); and cloud support.

The availability of subscriptions for apps that are ‘continually updated’ provides additional clarity to an issue that was hotly debated and discussed among developers since subscriptions were announced shortly before WWDC.

The App Review Guidelines also include an entire section on stickers.

Whether your app contains a sticker extension or you’re creating free-standing sticker packs, its content shouldn’t offend users, create a negative experience, or violate the law.

Section 4.4.3 includes a link for making infringement claims and states that if you cannot back up your rights to content contained in stickers with documentation, your sticker packs and extensions will be removed from the App Store. Repeat violators risk having their developer accounts revoked.

With respect to SiriKit, section 2.5.11 of the Guidelines provides:

Apps integrating SiriKit should only sign up for intents they can handle without the support of an additional app and that users would expect from the stated functionality. For example, if your app is a meal planning app, you should not incorporate an intent to start a workout, even if the app shares integration with a fitness app.

This guideline seems to be designed to avoid confusion that could be created by an app without clear SiriKit functionality accessing SiriKit.