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The Struggles of Getting Into the App Store 329

Posted by Soulskill
from the man-vs-machine dept.
itwbennett writes "You've heard the horror stories about the App Store approval process driving developers away, but what really makes it so bad isn't the 6-8 day waiting period or even rejection. What make it so bad is the lack of access to a human problem-solver at who can loosen the stranglehold of Apple's protocol machine, says Matthew Mombrea, who recounts in excruciating detail his company's experience publishing iOS apps, and, worse, updates to iOS apps."
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The Struggles of Getting Into the App Store

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @11:16PM (#41748079)
    Is failure to communicate.
    • by Mitreya (579078) <mitreyaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @01:02AM (#41748695)

      What we have here...Is failure to communicate.

      What we have here ... Is a deliberate failure to communicate.

      FTFY.
      Explaining policies would expose inconsistencies and cost money in additional staff hours.
      Apple is not the first company that decided to create a couple of layers between customer support and customers.

      • by immaterial (1520413) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @01:29AM (#41748819)
        It sucks that he can't get through to the reviewers. That said, his app is clearly violating Apple's guidelines. There's no ambiguity or inconsistency here: you cannot use your app to direct users to buy things from you without using the in-app purchase system. (Yes, this requirement blows goats. But it is clear and straightforward.) He gets rejected once for directing users to purchase an account at their website in the app description. His solution to this isn't the logical step of *remove the offending bit*, it's *remove it and replace it with a button that does the same thing.* And he's surprised it gets rejected again? If ever he does get ahold of the review team, they aren't going to give a shit about his "but it isn't convenient or sensible for us or our users" excuse - of course it isn't! This rule wasn't convenient or sensible for the Kindle app either, but them's the rules in the walled garden and the reviewers aren't going to give him special treatment. (TBH I wouldn't be surprised if they ultra-low-prioritized his requests in favor of responding to developers who have actual fixable issues.)
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          This is all true (though note that if you're selling physical goods the rules are different, presumably because Apple don't want to own that space, yet).

          It's also true that Apple is abusing their stranglehold on the market to try to wring all possible money out of developers, and cripple the software of competitors like Amazon and Google. That's not acceptable for users, developers, or a healthy ecosystem long-term, and we should continue to complain about it until they fix it.

          • If only that's what this dev had been complaining about in his blog, instead of whining that nobody wants to approve his blatantly rule-breaking app. The in-app purchase rule is one of the more egregious ones and I'd love to see it go.
          • by Genda (560240)

            That's not acceptable for users, developers, or a healthy ecosystem long-term, and we should continue to complain about it until they fix it.

            In other words, Till hell freezes over that the devils go ice skating...

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Fallingcow (213461)

          Yes, this requirement blows goats. But it is clear and straightforward.

          It blows goats for both legitimate business (sort of—it creates a safer, consistent marketplace, which is a big part of why people are willing to spend money buying software and media on their iDevices, and that doesn't blow goats. Actually, I'd say it's a net benefit for most businesses) and for scammers.

          It's good for Apple (obviously) and for most users most of the time.

          • by toutankh (1544253)

            How exactly is this good for "most users"? If Apple takes its toll on every sale, then the price of everything rises so that the sellers can still make a benefit. Guess who pays for that?

            • by profplump (309017)

              The same way credit cards are good for "most users" -- for the convenience and security of using a trusted third party as a transaction moderator you pay a little extra for the transaction. You can argue that Apple shouldn't force people into this setup, or that their fees or too high, but it's ridiculous to argue that they add no value.

              • by toutankh (1544253)

                I didn't argue that they add no value. The starting point is that the policy "blows goats", but that it's "good for most users". In other words, we're discussing the fact that, as you put it yourself, Apple forces people into their setup. I can perfectly understand that the added value is trust, but also that this trust comes as a price. I have more trouble understanding that forcing people into this setup is "good for most users". Let people decide for themselves what's good for them.

            • So how is this not like having to register your credit card with paypal, safebuy, click&buy and lots of other companies who take their cut from transactions, too?

              • by toutankh (1544253)

                It is exactly the same. Apple just adds a layer. I'd let the users decide if yet another layer is a thing they want, but Apple won't let them.

        • you cannot use your app to direct users to buy things from you without using the in-app purchase system. (Yes, this requirement blows goats. But it is clear and straightforward.)

          That may even be a sensible rule for both sides: users are usually already signed up to that shop system and used to it and trust it.

  • Yes, it sucks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by solidtransient (883338) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @11:18PM (#41748091) Homepage
    I can tell you from going through numerous reviews that it's a terribly inconsistent process and has lead to a lot of frustration. I've been denied before for extremely petty reasons, only to get through on the 3rd or 4th try. Good luck trying to get an idea of how long it will take also. It has taken 45 days or longer from initial submission to being 'ready for sale'. I understand they want to keep control of their market, but their denials really interfere with my motivation to continue developing on their platform. However, on Android I've made far far less revenue on the same apps, only to see my app get 'returned' daily and probably pirated. It's worth the pain still at this point to hit iOS first and Android afterwards, especially to make 3X to 4X revenue on iOS. It's why I hope Microsoft's approvals for Win 8 and RT can be somewhere in the middle.
    • Re:Yes, it sucks (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @11:45PM (#41748271)

      Serious question: How does Win8's fragmentation figure in your decision to potentially develop for their mobile platforms?

      From what I can tell, to have full support across all of their portable devices, you'll need to have 3 versions of each app. One for the Windows Phone 8, one for Windows RT 8, and one for x86/x64 Windows 8. I've seen reports that RT tablets won't be able to run phone apps and phones won't be able to run RT apps so that means two ARM builds. And there are also a lot of x86 tablets in the pipeline that will be running the full x86 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows 8 so you'll need to cover them, too.

      Seems like that would be a significant barrier to entry unless Microsoft has provided some pretty strong tools to port between platforms.

      • Re:Yes, it sucks (Score:5, Informative)

        by Osty (16825) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @01:18AM (#41748775)

        From what I can tell, to have full support across all of their portable devices, you'll need to have 3 versions of each app. One for the Windows Phone 8, one for Windows RT 8, and one for x86/x64 Windows 8. I've seen reports that RT tablets won't be able to run phone apps and phones won't be able to run RT apps so that means two ARM builds. And there are also a lot of x86 tablets in the pipeline that will be running the full x86 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows 8 so you'll need to cover them, too.

        It depends on how you're writing your app. If you use the HTML5+JS framework or C#, you can write platform-neutral apps that will run on x86, x64, and ARM Windows 8 machines (including RT). You of course also have the option of specifically targeting one or more platform, which is good for games, but I would expect most apps will be platform neutral

        That gets you down to two platforms -- Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. The Windows Phone 8 SDK has yet to be released except to hand-picked developers under strict NDA, so nobody really knows what's in there yet. It could be binary-compatible with Windows 8. We just don't know.

    • Re:Yes, it sucks (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bogtha (906264) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @06:31AM (#41750105)

      Yes, I'm an app developer and quite a few of the apps I've built have had to go through the approval process, and it can be extremely inconsistent and frustrating.

      There have been times when Apple have rejected an app with what is for all intents and purposes zero feedback. There have been times when the only person I have communicated with has admitted that they haven't actually used the app. There have been times when they have rejected an app for things that aren't in their rules. They have been times when they have rejected an app for doing things in a certain (sensible, not against the rules) way, and have refused to tell me if the alternative approach we were considering was acceptable to them or not. There have been times when they have rejected an app for something that is present in a great deal of other apps. There have been times when I've been pretty sure that for whatever reason, the reviewer has psychological issues and decided he hates us. And there have been times when they have reviewed and approved an app almost straight away.

      Apple's biggest problem is not so much the inconsistency as the terrible communication. When dealing with things at their scale, there's bound to be fuckups. If something gets rejected, I can't simply drop somebody an email saying "Er, I think you've made a mistake here", or "If that's no good, how about this?" I've got to go through an appeals process, and I've got to type up the appeal in a shitty web form coded by somebody who's halfway through reading Web Development for Dummies. And at the end of it, it's quite likely that I'll still get no useful information.

      • There's two sides to every story. We don't get to hear Apple's side. And I don't know it, but can only surmise...

        Apple are approving more than 500 new apps every day. And many more updates of the existing apps. We're talking about a process that needs production line levels of streamlining.

        If there's the facility to start an email discussion when apps are rejected, and nobody wants to wait another 8 days, then app reviewers are going to end up deluged in email to be answered rather than getting on reviewing

    • by aitan (948581)

      However, on Android I've made far far less revenue on the same apps, only to see my app get 'returned' daily and probably pirated.

      So your apps are returned in Android and you blame that on piracy.

      But the fact is that the user only has 15 minutes to return the app and if he plans to pirate it, why would he bother on buying it at all?,
      Pirates won't ever bother inserting their credit card on Google Play and go straight to the alternative markets and when people are returning your app after just 15 minutes then it's clear that there's something wrong with your app and you shouldn't blame anyone else but you about that

      Are your apps those

  • by Gothmolly (148874)

    Apple is dealing from a position of strength. They don't need you.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      Apple is dealing from a position of strength. They don't need you.

      This is a great excuse, until you realise that Apple's strength is derived from the applications others have written for it.

      Apple is not like Google where there is a series of services behind the OS (Gmail, YouTube, Maps) that customers rely on (realistically, without Google integrating Maps and Gmail into Android, it would not be doing half as well as it is now).

      • by iCEBaLM (34905)

        This is a great excuse, until you realise that Apple's strength is derived from the applications others have written for it.

        Not so, actually. iOS devices were hits before they even allowed native apps to run on them.

  • The cited IT World article (http://www.itworld.com/it-consumerization/306090/apple-ios-app-review-frustrating-and-bad-your-health) is a lesson in why you don't try to use iPAD as an enterprise platform for home-grown specialized software. You simply don't have enough control over the device or the ability to get the software onto the device. Need to update the app in real time, you are at the mercy of Apple regardless of how nit-picky you think the reviewers are.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @12:01AM (#41748387)

      Um. No. It's simple to set up enterprise distribution with your provisioning profile, which will allow you install any of your signed apps on any of your devices. You can even push the apps OTA.

      Have a clue before you make stuff up.

  • Web App? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by R3d M3rcury (871886)

    The interesting thing mentioned in the article is that they have both a web app and an iPad app.

    How impossible would it be to just have a web app? Then you can update to your hearts delight and don't have to deal with Apple. Users can easily put it on their iPads. There are even some "tricks" you can use to work better on the iPad, I believe (common gestures, etc.).

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @11:46PM (#41748293) Journal

    The App Store deemed that we were forcing the user to make a purchase away from the app store in order to use the app, which is partly true.

    The article does not describe any actions they take to make the above not true, so it appears that they broke Apple's rules. What can they expect?

    • by Quarters (18322)
      Exactly. I can almost forgive them for the mistake with the word 'encryption' in the metadata. The rest of the rejections were clearly for not following the rules. Disliking the rules is one thing. Complaining because you can't talk to someone to get a waiver for those rules is something completely different. The majority of this article can be summarized as "We did X, which we know wasn't allowed and were surprised when Apple rejected our poor little app. Then in order to fix X we did Y, which we also know
    • He also broke the rules by complaining about Apple's procedures openly on the internet. I think he can expect to see his developer certificate revoked soon.
    • by HuguesT (84078)

      Yes, there is a lot of usual keywords in their rant on the web (deliver in a timely manner, etc), but really the reason Apple rejected them is clear as day, and they know it. They state that the in-app store purchase is not appropriate for their need, but it is not clear why not, or why they need users to make any purchase at all.

      So in other word their whole rant is irrelevant, except to say that Apple doesn't care about corporate software in their walled garden. If you look at the content of the App store,

  • by rworne (538610) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @12:19AM (#41748495) Homepage

    My experience with the app store has been totally different.

    While I do embedded code for a living, I wanted to learn to write iOS apps. I am by no means a really good Obj-C programmer (but I am improving). My first hobby app suddenly looked like it might be marketable and I prepped it for app store submission.

    When I got my one app rejection (on my first submission) I got an electronically generated letter that was sort of vague as to the reason. I responded to it, I got a response by a human in only an hour or two explaining in simpler terms what the issue was and what they expected. I resubmitted that afternoon and in a few days it was up and on sale. There have been no rejections over any of my subsequent updates.

    I also had to push out an update about 4-5 days before the iOS 6 release due to a stupid coding error that iOS 6 would no longer let me get away with. It sat in the queue until iOS 6 was released then suddenly the app went from waiting, to in review to ready for sale in a few seconds. It came out when they did a dump of all the other iOS 6 apps. I suppose if an app has a certain number of sales and decent feedback they do not spend much time on it during reviews when crunch time is upon them. This has happened more than once - on the 5.0 update and the 4.0 update too.

    Releasing at other times, I usually have 5-6 day waits. My last release (approved today) took a bit more than 8 days.

    I have no complaints so far in my 2+ years on the app store.

Wernher von Braun settled for a V-2 when he coulda had a V-8.

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