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App Store Review Process Broken - Ideas To Fix

Posted by Alex Kac - CEO/Founder, 23 June 2009 · 305 views

Pocket Informant 1.02 was tested by three groups: internal QA, about 50 private beta testers and about 22 support beta testers (these are guys who had issues with previous versions and we pulled them in for testing from our support queue). We fixed a huge amount of bugs in 1.02, but introduced 2 new ones. One is annoying, but can be worked around and the other is a sync crash which while rare, can occur. We fixed both of these issues quickly and submitted an update to Apple. About 4 days later Apple responded that they found another crash bug and rejected the update. Normally I wouldn't have an issue, but the way to get this crash was so obscure and completely non-intuitive to produce and had been in PI since 1.00 that frankly it was a non issue. Easily fixed we fixed it within 2 hours of the rejection and resubmitted. Lite version was approved in 48 hours. Payed version - 3 weeks later and I'm still waiting.

Here is what's broken with the App Store. A quick update to fix real bugs affecting real users was delayed by Apple because of a bug that affected no-one (or even if someone happened on it, they wouldn't do it again). Apple - there is a balance to updates that you need to realize. So now we have 3 weeks of users waiting on a real bug fix.

What should Apple do to fix this? I'm not going to write up a huge essay here as there is many great ideas but here are my top 4:
  • Apple should not be reviewing apps for bugs. Let the users/reviews handle that. Its a free market and the market works. Trust me, I've been a part of it on both sides.
  • If Apple must review, then it should allow us to provide new builds to existing customers via a new Ad-Hoc process that does not require UDIDs or custom builds. Let us make a build of our app we can give to support and therefore to our users who have the issues we are supposedly fixing. The cert would verify that the user installing it already purchased the app. Let it expire within say 4 weeks to give Apple time to officially release the app.
  • Updates should be on a different or higher priority queue than app submissions. Especially if it has high profile bug fixes.
  • Have a separate App Reviewer queue for apps under $5 and those over $5. Or a premium iPhone Developer program that allows those of us who actually make a living off mobile apps to get through. Lets say $999 a year instead of $99.

A few other things that we've found is an issue is that because its taken 3 weeks for 1.03 to get approved, we've already finished 1.04. But if we reject 1.03 NOW we go to the back of the line. Unacceptable. We propose that Apple makes this very simple change: If an app has been in the app review queue for say over 14 days, then allow us to REPLACE the binary without losing our queue position. Why 14 days? Because if its less, a snarky developer could game the system by putting up a beta to start their position in a queue and then 4-5 days later put up the final version and keep their place in line. Our idea here is a balancing act: It keeps Apple happy that nobody is gaming the system, but it keeps devs happy in the unhappy case that Apple is taking way too long to approve something.

30 minutes after I wrote this - 1.03 gets approved by Apple. Almost 3 weeks!
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Cool. It's not available to download yet. I bought 1.02 a couple of weeks ago, but it's not really ready for heavy use yet. I've been hoping for 1.03. Been using PI on WM since the 2005 version, and I loved it. I hope the iPhone version makes it to that level of power and usability soon.
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I think 1.02 brought it to a fair amount of usability and 1.1 will kick it up at least 2-3 notches. Alarms, filtering, and faster usage all around + a lot more little features.
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1.02 is definitely better than the default iPhone calendar, but I guess I'm spoiled with using PI for WM for so long. I'm afraid to put tasks into it without some ability to sync/back them up somewhere else. I started a Toodle Do account, but for some reason nothing syncs to PI. I'm tempted to write to Remember The Milk and ask them to work with you. I know the fault for that is on their end. Does Toodle Do require a pro account to sync?
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Toodledo does not require a pro account. Have you tried a simple "Erase Sync" with Toodledo in PI? That should suck everything down.
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Thanks for the tip. For some reason it didn't work for me. I'm sure that with the iPhone backup, my data would be secure from disappearance if I started entering tasks into PI, but it is easier to do it from a desktop computer. Hopefully the Toodle Do sync will work in 1.03 if Apple decides to show it as an available update. The App Store and AT&T are the weakest links in the iPhone chain. I almost chocked on my coffee when I first read that Microsoft wanted to do an app store for Windows Mobile. The ease of acquiring applications has always been one of the strongest points to that broken platform. I'm glad I finally switched to the iPhone, but the App Store was NOT a selling point.
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It turns out the Toodle Do sync is one-way only. Any tasks that I create on PI will sync up, but nothing there will sync down.
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I really can't help you here. I would need to see the sync log. There is no reason for that and I've never seen it be just one way.
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It turned out to be my failure. I imported tasks from RTM. For some reason they wouldn't sync unless I made some kind of change, whether it's adding an s to the name or adding a context or changing priority. It's good now.

I also sent RTM a suggestion to respond to your request, but if they continue to ignore it, I'm rapidly thinking Toodle Do is better and the $25 I spent on an RTM Pro membership was a waste of money.

Thanks for great products and active support.
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I've been trying to come up with suggestions in my head for Apple, but the #1 one that comes to my head is really simple: Apple should review apps faster.

Seriously, it shouldn't be that difficult, either the app store is profitable enough to bother with having sufficient staff, or it's not and the review process is pointless anyway.

That being said, I very much like the idea of having a professional developer level.
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Most of the time its about 7 days. That's really not bad at all. Its just 50,000 apps to test for 3.0 compatibility and thousands of apps thrown at them for updates to support 3.0 properly gives you a headache that's avoidable, but punishing.
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I assume these are ideas you have relayed to Apple, are they responsive to these kinds of ideas? Or do they even acknowledge there is an issue that needs to be addressed?

I love all the ideas you have, but have always felt strongly about #4. Plain and simple, productive applications should have a higher level of care. I wonder sometimes why apple does not handle it this way. The only thing I can come up with is, is it possible that a little 99 cent app that appeals to a sixteen year old makes them more money because of how many purchases they get? Apples iPhone is in a unique situation, it is popular with the younger demographic and is not used primarily as a productivity tool for a large amount of people.
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yes, I've relayed them to Apple and yes, I've received some sort of response.
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Would you say they're response was positive? Do you have hope that there could be a change in their process (even if not immediate)?
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Mostly positive.
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