Some thoughts on the App Store review system

Posted on December 9, 2014

Following yesterday piece, Cromulent Labs published a blog article explaining why the had to remove their app from the App Store recently.

Here’s some bits that I’ve selected:

During one of my conversations with someone at App Review last month, I asked if they could tell me if some of these new apps being accepted slipped through or if their use of widgets was deemed acceptable. I heard what had come to be a popular refrain from them. They couldn’t discuss other apps with me, they would look into those apps, and if I submitted a new app with that specific functionality they would be happy to review it and let me know if it was acceptable or not by either rejecting or accepting my new app. They steadfastly refused to tell me if a certain use of a widget was acceptable or not ahead of time.

Apple :- Yeah, you have to spend dozens of hours to implement this idea to see if it doesn’t violate our -so ambiguous policies that even us understand them after the fourth revision of your implementation-”.

The Apple representative responded by saying that they prefer that the rules remain vague because that allows developers to come up with innovative ideas […]

Yeah, because uncertainty and vague policies is the best way to make your business work!

[…] and also allows Apple to be flexible in case they change their minds later.

This is the real reason why Apple is ambiguous.

When pressed on the issue of their policies leading to wasted developer time, I was told, “If you are afraid something you are working on will be rejected, then don’t work on it.”

So basically, they are telling you to not try to make your app better. Best way to “come up with innovative ideas”!

But this is the best piece :

During this same conversion, I also asked specifically why Launcher was removed from the App Store after 9 days when other similar apps are still available weeks later. The answer to this question was the most interesting and informative response I had ever heard from them. They basically said that Launcher was a trailblazer in uncharted territories and that they felt that they needed to make an example of it in order to get the word out to developers that its functionality is not acceptable without them having to publish new specific guidelines. And they said that the fact that they aren’t seeing hundreds of similar apps submitted every day is proof to them that taking down Launcher was successful in this regard. This was a pretty big revelation to me. After Launcher was rejected and the press picked up on it and started writing articles which painted Apple in a bad light, I was afraid that Apple might be mad at me. But it turns out that was actually the outcome they were looking for all along. They acted swiftly and made me the sacrificial lamb. And after that, removing other apps with similar functionality became a low priority for them.

No comment.

To finish, Joe Cieplinski summarize well the situation (check his article, it’s very short). I think it’s time for someone to vest his (or her) stock options. It’s not like Tim Cook hasn’t done this before.

Thanks Marco Arment.