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iCombat and the App Approval Death Panel

By deans ~ October 20th, 2009. Filed under: Observations.

The fellow over at iCombat just posted a tale of woe regarding his recent adventures with the app store.  I feel his pain:.

What is so frustrating about this latest round of trivial rejections is that the app review “feedback” seems to always come on day 14 (at the earliest), and happens serially.  To give you an idea, we first submitted iCombat Lite update 1.1 on September 8th, 41 days ago!  After being rejected for an issue Apple reported with the code on September 22nd, and spending several days working on replicating the bug (which we never even managed to), we resubmitted the exact same keywords and code on September 28th.

On October 12th (14 days later) we received notice that the entire update would need to be resubmitted because of the “wii tank” keyword.  Had anything changed from the approved iCombat Paid version or the previously rejected lite version?  Nothing at all…and so we deleted the words, resubmitted and for the third time started another 14 day approval cycle.  All in all, if we are lucky we expect the iCombat Lite update to be approved on October 26th, just 48 days to get to market (42 if we subtract the days we took to work on the first rejection).

Fortunately, Apple hasn’t found any real “issues” with our code (they uncovered one case — in our very first app — where I followed instructions that we found on the Oolong site and linked to a “private” framework, even though we weren’t calling into it directly).  HoweverTiltBallLite App Store Icon, they did bust me for using the word “trial” — as in “free trial version of TiltBall” — in the description for TiltBallLite v1.0.  In my rush to edit the description, I failed to notice that I had also included “trial” in the keywords list.  Sure enough, another rejection.  Initial submission to final approval for TiltBallLite v1.0 was 40 days.  As the iCombat post asserts, uncertainties like this make it almost impossible to have any sort of plan for product introduction.  You have to just throw things out there, and hope…

The post continues.

Ignoring how illogical this last keyword rejection has been, the real damage of the current app approval process is that it has created a slow and arbitrary development environment that does nothing but discourage indie developers.  The biggest issues with this setup are:

[…] lists several issues […]

All of these factors serve to undermine developer confidence, reduce the quality of apps in the store, and ultimately choke app development activity.  Developers are already looking to other platforms and are limiting investment as the environment has simply become too unpredictable to work with.

Sadly, it’s not apparent to me that things are improving measurably, especially for free apps.


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