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Posts tagged with "App Review"

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.


Apple Announces App Store Cleanup

Apple has announced a plan to clean up the App Store. Apple’s developer site states it plainly:

To make it easier for customers to find great apps that fit their needs, we want to ensure that apps available on the App Store are functional and up-to-date. We are implementing an ongoing process of evaluating apps, removing apps that no longer function as intended, don’t follow current review guidelines, or are outdated.

Beginning September 7, 2016, the same day as the event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium where Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 7, App Review will begin evaluating all existing apps on the App Store to determine if they are functional and meet App Store guidelines. Some of the highlights:

  • If App Review determines that changes need to be made to an app, the developer will be contacted and given 30 days to update it, after which it will be removed from the App Store;
  • If an app crashes on launch, it will be removed from sale immediately; and
  • Existing customers will still have access to apps removed from the App Store.

In addition, Apple announced in an email to developers that going forward, app names will be limited to 50 characters. Apple explained that long app names, which developers use to try to influence search results, provide no value for customers, particularly because they are too long to display in full on the App Store.

Eight years and over two million apps later, the App Store is long overdue for a cleanup. Abandoned and broken apps create a real discovery problem for customers. We are well past the time when the number of apps served as meaningful bragging rights for Apple keynotes. The directness in tone and relatively short time frame given to developers to make changes to apps sends a clear message – Apple is serious about cleaning up the App Store. Developers with neglected apps had better pay attention if they want to remain on the App Store.


Putting Recent App Review Time Improvements in Visual Context

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

As many have noted this month, including Bloomberg, App Review has been processing app updates at a much quicker rate than usual. In the past week the average time for an iOS app to be approved by App Review has fallen to just 1.5 days. Apple itself doesn’t publish times, but there is unofficial crowd-sourced data at AppReviewTimes.com.

Dave Verwer of AppReviewTimes.com was kind enough to share the raw data with MacStories, and we produced the above and below charts which provide some visual context and demonstrate just how out of the ordinary the recent improvement in App Review time is. It is too early to say conclusively, but given the extent of the reduction (and the sudden nature of it), I think it is fairly safe to guess that Apple has made some internal changes in order to improve the speed of App Review.

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Earlier this year we published an extensive survey which detailed a number of frustrations that developers had with App Review, and suggestions for how Apple could improve App Review. At the top of that list of developer frustrations was the slow speed of App Review, with 78% saying it was bad or terrible.