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Apple 'Surprised' by Developer Frustration with Its App Review Process (macrumors.com)
307 points by gabea 53 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 123 comments

These days when I hear people being 'surprised' by negative feedback they weren't getting but 'everyone' knew about:

You should ask yourself why people stopped coming to you with information, and why someone else has it instead of you. Especially if it's your job to keep on top of that issue. You've alienated them in some way that means they're avoiding talking to you, from fear or contempt.

In the cases I've been involved with, I've come to realize that people don't like to look stupid, and some people accidentally or on purpose put you into that scenario a few times, and they just start avoiding you. You no longer get all the information, and the people they feel safe giving it to will include people who you already have a strained relationship with, and they may use this information as ammunition against you.

It's better that people ask you dumb questions and you teach them how to answer them or steer them toward better questions, rather than imply that's a dumb question. Most especially if any other people are going to observe the conversation. Will you get interrupted a lot? Yes. But you'll also know where all of the choke points are in the system - where everyone else is getting interrupted. If you're doing policy or architecture without knowing pain points, you're going to be the one who looks like an idiot. But nobody is gonna tell you that to your face. Or at least not until your goose is cooked.

This happens in all kinds of modern companies. A (paid!) vendor I’m working with uses Zendesk exclusively for support. Want to pay them for an enterprise plan with phone support? Great, but you initiate phone support using Zendesk.

It turns out they thoroughly flubbed their integration. It works on Chrome and fails on (at least) Firefox and Safari. By “fails” I mean “complete inability to interact with the ticketing system.” This includes their iOS app. Click support, click a ticket, get home page, not logged in, embedded under the word “support”.

Of course, most customers won’t tell them it’s busted because the only way to tell them is via Zendesk. Oops. So they can live in their little bubble and not realize how broken their site is.

Zendesk was still requiring third party cookies long after blocking them was the default configuration in all major browsers. They're kind of a sad joke.

Searching my inbox for "Zendesk incident notification", it seems Zendesk has some trouble weekly, if not daily. During the slow summer months, I actually got more notifications for Zendesk issues than issues in our own product.

It is? I thought the rollout of that change wasn't coming for a few more years. I feel like I've had to turn it on explicitly in Firefox and Chrome fairly recently.

It's a bit like trying to deal with Facebook without having a FB account .... no phone numbers, no email, ....

The last time I had trouble with my personal AWS account, which I use very intermittently, by the time I figured out how to even file a ticket for having trouble logging in, I was so spun up that I'm not sure my report even made any sense.

I had an old account that I had stopped using before my credit card got reported as stolen, but I owed like $30 which they couldn't bill me for so my account got closed. Once you have a closed account the entire AWS workflow has mystery failure modes that don't show up the rest of the time. A closed account is closed forever, and it mucks up their whole UI (as if their UI needs any help in that dept)

It's like trying to deal with FB or Google period.

We got locked out of our FB account once because FB randomly required a phone number and someone in our marketing Dept provided their own. Despite owning the email address and knowing the password, we couldn't get in because we didn't know who the 2FA code was going to.

We had similar issues with our Google Pay Account.

Yep, I was trying to make a Facebook account to _give them money through Facebook ads_, and they decided for some reason that I'm not real. I wanted to appeal this decision so I could _give them money_, but there's no way to contact them without having an account.

In my case they let someone register an account using my email address - so much spam! but no way to contact them to fix it

It feels like an episode of Kitchen Nightmares. For those with better things to do, that's a reality TV show where failing restaurants ask the host for help. And yet in nearly every episode they're shocked to find out that their food isn't good, despite that obviously being a key part of running a restaurant. "We've never had any complaints" is a common refrain, and many are irate at the suggestion.

When I go to a restaurant and the food is bad, the last people I'd tell are the restaurant staff. I simply stop visiting that business (if I can help it) and maybe recommend other people avoid it as well. The same is probably true in most lines of business.

You may also be surprised how many owners thinks their food are great.

We had a recent discussions on HN, how many people just couldn’t tell the difference between better speakers headphones, food, wine etc…. Or they just don’t care about it enough. I have only learnt this very very late in my life I wish I knew this earlier.

same with most jobs. unsatisfied employees will just start looking at other jobs rather than raise issues with their boss. managers really need to set the culture otherwise.

And that’s the charitable interpretation. The non-charitable one is that they simply lied.

'Public Relations' is the result of the word 'propaganda' being given the propaganda treatment. To corporate PR, lying comes as naturally as breathing. Every time an executive gets publicly disgraced they "decide to spend more time with family." Every time an employee is injured, the company "takes safety very seriously." Every time your personal information is sold to data brokers, it's "shared with our trusted partners."

These lies are so prevalent they've practically become memes. PR is propaganda. To a propagandist, lying is just another tool for manipulating people. Lying is in their professional DNA. Never give these assholes the benefit of the doubt; assume they are lying until proven otherwise.

> 'Public Relations' is the result of the word 'propaganda' being given the propaganda treatment

This meme elides over the historical reason Bernays et al eschewed the term propaganda: the fascist regimes were printing outright lies, something he worked to avoid. To differentiate propaganda which doesn’t lie (but still, of course, seeks to influence) from the kind which embraces outright lying, the term “public relations” emerged.

Public relations doesn't distinguish itself from propaganda by not lying; that is itself propaganda about "public relations". Public relations lies nonstop. Public relations is nothing more than a rebranding of propaganda because propaganda became associated with fascism.

And Bernays had no qualms about lying. This is the man who endeavored to convince women that cigarettes were "Torches of Freedom." He was an amoral psychopathic dirtbag.

And yes, he knew what he was doing was wrong:

> Throughout the job, Bernays concealed the fact that he was working for the American Tobacco Company, and succeeded in keeping his own name out of the affair as well. Staff were instructed never to mention his name. Third parties were used, and various notable people received payments to promote smoking publicly as if on their own initiative.[47] (Decades later, however, Bernays boasted about his role.)[48] Bernays did not smoke cigarettes himself, and persistently tried to induce his wife Doris to quit.[49]

I think it's somewhere in the middle, which is somehow worse.

The 'dumb' vector works on technical people. But we know, or at least can read between the lines, from big scandals that management has trained their reports to lie to them by omission. Don't bring me bad news and I can say with a straight face that we aren't aware of any problems.

A bit like Captain Renault proclaiming his shock at finding gambling in Rick's cafe.

Here are your winnings, sir.

Apple is "surprised" that other countries are starting to tear down the App Store. They don't want their minimal effort cash cow going away.

Don't be silent. Keep telling your representatives how unfair this is. Show them how PCs and Macs do not have an app store or review process. They'll need a little help to understand.

So you don't think the new $5 Billion new HQ sent the warm fuzzy feelings they'd hoped for?

Nothing at all like a Fortress Temple of Elitism...

I have shipped ~100 apps on the app store, ranging in size from simple to large/complex.

The app store, review process, and (especially) Apple's demands for 30% of everything make dealing with them easily the worst aspect of my work.

Apple makes several million/year off their cut from me, and I would drop the App Store in a heartbeat if I could.

Similar comment from Panic (major independent mac app developer):

> ... the App Store takes parts of our job that we're already extremely good at like customer support, quick updates, easy refunds and makes them all more stressful and difficult, in exchange for giving Apple 30% of our revenue.

via https://twitter.com/TechEmails/status/1412850761231392773/

(update: formatting)

I have never understood how someone dares base their business on the benevolence of a company that can, at any time and for whatever reason, shut them down and essentially render a product entirely worthless. Personally that's a risk I'm not comfortable with.

Two companies control the entirety of the mobile app distribution and mobile app payment markets.

If you want to enter nearly any mobile-related markets, you have no other choice but to have rent extracted from your business by either Apple or Google. Those two companies have stifled innovation in the mobile app market for over a decade now, and they expect you to pay tribute.

How the judge ruled that Apple is not a monopoly is beyond me.

Sure, but clearly other people are. As an outsider it's clear why people do, the risk drives away some of the competition (people like you), and I'll presume you are a thoughtful and skilled engineer. So here you have a situation where you have an increased risk of a rug-pull without recourse (maybe already a risk for you anyway), but plenty of money on the table, and good principled engineers like you choosing another route.

This was more about me seeing an unappealing risk profile than me being principled. The discussion about principles is a far more complicated one I think.

Fragile components make a bad developer.

Because it is a shit-ton of money. It is not like an app is going to be a multi generational sustaibale business. It will be on trend for a while, print money, and then be the next angrybirds or clubhouse (if you are lucky).

Chances are the users will have moved on before the users of the app have.

For some people it isn't their only revenue source and the adage "you don't leave money on the table" applies.

You you feel like you get the level of service of a premium customer paying several million?

There has been absolutely zero change in “service” quality from when my first app made $15 a month to my developer account pulling in >$10mil annually.

An email would be nice. Maybe a fruit basket.

> An email would be nice. Maybe a fruit basket.

Ask not what Apple can do for you -- ask what you can do for Apple.

Arguably it gets worse. At $10mil you're on their radar and get a lot more rejections.

> account pulling in >$10mil annually. An email would be nice. Maybe a fruit basket.

They cut you a cheque for 10mil each year, maybe you are the one that should be sending them a fruit basket at christmas.

The hubris.

This is like failing restaurants who can't hire people putting up signs saying 'giving away stimulus checks every 2 weeks apply inside'.

They aren't cutting him a check, they are installing themselves as a middle man between him and his money. Apple did none of the work, but take almost half the money.

Remove the app store, it's all spam and ads anyways and search is damn near impossible.

I'd say they should be paying him since his apps bring in so many customers, and he has to do all the legwork.

If people stop making iOS apps, thr machine stops.

If people stop making iOS apps, apple stop writing them big fat cheques.

There are a shit ton more developers than there are platforms to develop on.

I’ve had a similar path to you. Whenever I’m having a frustrating experience with them I just remind myself that it’s better than it used to be. It used to take weeks to resolve things - now it merely takes days. The problem is that most of the time the frustration should have never existed.

Apple is doing nothing for you except for bullying, extortion, and removing your customer relationship, risking your business' health.

Desktop applications and operating systems don't have to put up with manual review and tax. (Can you imagine how horrific that world would be?) Mobile shouldn't either. They serve the same purpose.

In addition, there's one more unspoken burden Apple places on everyone: you have to write a native app for iOS. There should be a standard for devices. The differences are trivial.

I'm glad the EU, Korea, and Japan are standing up to this and launching antitrust cases.

This is so dishonest, it's unbelievable.

Just over 10 years ago pretty much only way to install latest apps on your "internet communicator" phone was to go to xda-developers, browse the forum and download some random files and trust they won't brick your Windows Mobile device.

Mobile operators controlled the market and software on the phones everywhere.

Apple came in, kicked everyone in the butt and changed the whole mobile and app development industry in every country, worldwide, forever.

Mobile operators can no longer dictate phone's software or hardware.

Apple enforced quality, design (UIKit), added manual reviews, mobiles and software became easy and accessible to consumers. They also gave developers a marketplace with instant access to millions (now over a billion) of users with a connected credit card, making a simple purchase just a tap away.

They also took away any issues of selling software worldwide. If you sell your app in Germany or South Korea, you don't need to worry which VAT to charge or when to file your local German tax reports.

And so many more things, from insane APIs, app discoverability and to all the billions they spent on software and hardware R&D to make apps even better.

And now you're telling they do nothing except bullying and extortion.

Seriously, it's so unbelievable that people forget what the world was just a few years ago, and suddenly feel so entitled that it's their basic human right to have access to a 1+ billion people marketplace to distribute their software.

If you would tell anyone 15 years ago that they would be able to sell software on a digital shelf where 1 billion people can find and purchase it in under 30 seconds, they wouldn't believe you.

But today, you're saying what Apple made possible after making a huge bet and changing everyones lives, are suddenly bullies and extortionist...

Not the person you're replying to, and I haven't forgotten what Apple contributed. I remember being a young person, trying to figure out how to load my own program onto my clearly capable Motorola Razr (pre-iPhone), and getting so incredibly frustrated that there wasn't a way for me to boot up whatever software I wanted to boot up.

Part of how we got apps on phones was by Apple bullying corps in the names of users. I remember how Apple leveraged their desirability to get AT&T to do all kinds of things they previously blocked outright.

They were bullies, and they're still bullies. It's just that we really needed a bully back then to change the telecoms. I'm not convinced they're using their power to make things better for the user anymore. What Epic is doing to Apple feels very similar to what Apple did to AT&T.

If their store is so awesome, why do they need to block any other method of loading?

So that Apple customers keep having awesome experience?

Why would they choose the less awesome experience?

Customer’s might not have a choice at all if app’s available only in the less awesome experience.

Also bad experience often comes after, not at the point of service.

From not being able to get a refund to bad actor abusing the system/personal data/credit card information.

Yes there are financial incentives for Apple to control the App Store, but we also know Apple was always notoriously picky and laser focused on customer experience even before the App Store.

That’s what they do for decades. Vertical integration. Hardware + software fitting like a glove.

That’s how they’ve beaten the music player industry, the phone industry and the tablet industry. And built huge ecosystems around these devices.

By making sure customers have the best experience possible.

Not only they want to keep the marketplace revenue they’ve tirelessly built, but they want to stay the leader in customer satisfaction and I honestly believe they want to keep customers safe and happy.

I don’t really see much customer or Apple benefit for them to give away control over software distribution on their platform.

Pretty much all discussions and Epic’s court case is not about customers, it’s about giving less to Apple and keeping more to themselves. That’s it.

Customers don’t know and don’t care if developers take 70% home or 85% home.

That’s how any physical or digital distribution channels work, from Walmart to PlayStation store.

> I don’t really see much customer or Apple benefit for them to give away control over software distribution on their platform.

You don't see it because it's not allowed to be seen. All those things which can't produce with a 30% margin to give away to Apple don't get to exist. All those things that want to use something Apple doesn't allow are not allowed to exist. All those apps which are denied in review for obscure reasons don't get to exist.

> Pretty much all discussions and Epic’s court case is not about customers, it’s about giving less to Apple and keeping more to themselves. That’s it.

For the users supporting Epic and wanting to pay Epic for what they've done, it's about using your own phone as you please. Apple wants to get paid 30% to not veto apps.

> That’s how they’ve beaten the music player industry, the phone industry and the tablet industry. And built huge ecosystems around these devices.

To be clear, 'beating' industries in modern capitalism means that you've fully monopolized them without arousing the suspicion of the public. So that much I will concede to you. However, the rest of this genuinely reads like a handful of strawmen. Apple's vertical integration is what they're selling, and people are (rightfully) calling them out for charging so much for what is obviously a zero-margin utility. On top of that, they are already the largest, most powerful private corporate in modern history, by a country mile. What good does society stand to gain by giving away our 30% to a company that has it all?

Apple has an internal problem, a cultural one that started when Woz was shunned. Wozniak was everything great about Apple, he showed that they could deliver both a premium product and every hacker's dream in the same product. He did this before the iPod took off and started printing money, so there's no excuse for MacOS to have outdated coreutils today. That disparity between old Apple's meticulous care and new Apple's complete disregard for anything but profit and customer retention is what brought them into this mess, and it's what's going to kill them in the end.

Steve Jobs personally met with every carrier in the US.

So by your logic being an excellent negotiator and to make a historic business deal to take industry out of the stone age and make both companies financially successful is bullying?

What’s up with with comments here today? Am I missing /s?

From the cut of your comment, I think you're only missing my tone, which is of course is notoriously difficult to convey in text form. I probably should have used these: ""

> Just over 10 years ago pretty much only way to install latest apps on your "internet communicator" phone was to go to xda-developers, browse the forum and download some random files and trust they won't brick your Windows Mobile device.

Nonsense, I had a Palm Pre with webOS in 2009 and at that time it had an official App Catalog and you could add third-party repositories to it. PreWare[1] was amazing, and made the Pre one of the best phones I've ever had.

Before that I had a Nokia N900 with Maemo/Meego. It had an app store based on apt, and you could add third-party repositories to it, as well.

> Mobile operators controlled the market and software on the phones everywhere.

They certainly didn't on the Pre, Pre 2 or N900. I had more freedom to install software on my phone in 2010 than I do now with a modern iPhone or iPad.

> If you would tell anyone 15 years ago that they would be able to sell software on a digital shelf where 1 billion people can find and purchase it in under 30 seconds, they wouldn't believe you.

Steam's store existed in 2005.

[1] https://webos-internals.org/wiki/Application:Preware

2009 is just over 10 years ago :)

Also not great examples.

One of the main reasons webOS and Symbian died (including Windows Phone by the way) is because they barely had any apps and developers didn’t want to build for those platforms.

Because either the developer APIs were bad, the hardware was slow or there weren’t many people around on those platforms.

Microsoft tried to incentivise developers, but it didn’t work.

And consumers didn’t want to stick around those platforms.

So it shown us that:

- people want to stick on platforms with active developers

- developers want to develop for platforms with great APIs, hardware and great distribution

RIM, Nokia and Palm tried, burned billions, but the market (via consumers and developers) has spoken, and made Apple right - people care about experience, whether they are people that consume or build the software.

It’s no easy feat for new entrants (Google & Apple) to dethrone existing mammoths.

But they’ve done it and turned others into history and a business lesson about innovation and changing the status quo.

They had a single rule for developers - we’ll charge you fee for our work (R&D, APIs, software, hardware, distribution, handling payments and taxes worldwide).

Developers voluntarily agreed and chosen Apple (then Google) instead of what RIM, Nokia and Palm offered.

In the end I feel it was the right decision, everyone won.

Now, after history’s been made and unsuccessful platform and models died out, developers (companies) decided to change their mind: "Hey, remember how we agreed to your rules and changed the world together? Well, we want to go back to the days of no distribution and marketplace fees, but still have access to the best hardware and billion people on your platforms. We don't care that it's normal for other marketplaces to charge 30-50% fees (Walmart/PlayStation), you're a monopoly!" (even though we know Apple is not a monopoly, and developers played a huge part in demise of the 3rd player in the market - Microsoft) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Symbian was started to look quite good with Carbide, PIPS and Qt.

It was the burning memo that destroyed all trusth from third parties.

The transition to Qt/PIPS was the third of its kind, so most just decided "I am out of here".

I used my Symbian Belle device until that stoped being an option.

Where have I seen this before.... oh yeah:

Bell [0] brought the home telephone to tens of millions of people. They made it affordable and reliable. They laid millions of miles of wires, provided tens of thousands of high paying jobs, and made life measurably safer.

They improved the quality of life for everyone. The improvement is practically immeasurable.

Despite what they did, they (and their descendants) went on to become the very villains you deride in your post. Imagine that!

The Bell companies introduced world-changing technology and were richly rewarded. Then they morphed into abusive monopolists. Funny how we've come full circle.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_System

> Just over 10 years ago pretty much only way to install latest apps on your "internet communicator" phone was to go to xda-developers, browse the forum and download some random files and trust they won't brick your Windows Mobile device.

I had an LG Chocolate in 2006 and you could get new apps on your device in a few ways, but primarily through LG's own "app store" which was just an app pre-installed on the phone. At the time it wasn't much different than what we have now really, just much less polished. In the end, it still comes down to the phone manufacturers (and carriers) deciding what apps you can or cannot easily install on your phone.

Selection wasn't great back then, but mobile devices were very limited and the demand wasn't there either.

This - I remember in 2006 was when all new mobile phones now had cameras. They certainly weren't the personal computing devices they are now.

Apple has done a lot, and I remember it but this would have been a much more convincing argument if you also included why apple should be able to dictate what runs on a device I bought.

Your argument would also mean that HP, Dell, Microsoft and any other OEM or enabler of functionality should be able extract payment after the sale of a device is done. Should every computer program require license payment to the OEM?

I think people should be able to use what they bought as they want and need. The device manufacturer should not be involved post-sale unless the consumer wants it.

This is also disingenuous. For decades before Apple entered the scene, distributed package management was the norm and perfectly functional (while also completely free and transparent to maintain). When Apple came in, they threw away a perfectly functional system because it didn't make enough money, and then replaced it with their own flawed approach that's starting to melt before our very eyes. It's not an "us vs them" situation like you're painting it out to be, it's a "humanity vs extortion" scenario where Apple is most definitely not fighting alongside humanity.

If Apple's system were really as good as you claim, it would be a monopoly on it's own merit alongside alternative stores. However, without the opportunity to exercise such a theory, we simply have to assume the worst (or prepare to be proven wrong).

> This is also disingenuous. For decades before Apple entered the scene, distributed package management was the norm and perfectly functional (while also completely free and transparent to maintain).

Could you point me to this sandboxed/containerized packaging system for third party applications with capability-based entitlements that existed decades prior?

AFAIK the only widespread Linux system which has this today is Android. Microsoft added one in Windows 8. Both those happened after the App Store.

Sure, FreeBSD's FireJail has been sandboxing software for decades.

FreeBSD has jails, Firejail is a sandbox that uses features that are native to the Linux kernel.

My bad, I got the two mixed up. Either of them are effective options for sandboxing though.

Yeah, I didn't mean to detract from your overall point that I agree with.

For future reference, FreeBSD has Capsicum which implements capability-based security.

You laud appstore as some kind of grand innovation. It was not: software repositories for linux distributives or Steam existed long long before Appstore came around, y could find what you want, press a button and boom, the application is installed on a device! The necessity of same system for smartphones was beyond obviois, it would have appeared no matter what. What was unique in what Apple did was locking down the device, prohibiting all other methods of app installation, and silly people applaud them for making everyone wearing these shiny handcuffs.

Installer/AppTapp did this first, to be fair. I should know, I wrote it. ;-)

> This is so dishonest, it's unbelievable.

Not one word is dishonest. Please don't attack me.

Apple was not the first to market with a capacitive touch screen phone. LG Prada and others beat iPhone to announcement and launch. Apple won because of build quality and brand power. They fought so hard that they won 50+% of the American market, when there could have been room for far more players.

Steve Jobs focused on making sure Apple had a monopoly over the software executing on the iPhone processor. Devices that came before it were mostly open. The marketplace was Jobs' idea.

If Jobs had tried this with Mac back in the early 2000s, it would have failed. He got to do it with iPhone because he dominated the market.

It doesn't make it fair or right.

> Devices that came before it were mostly open.

This really depended on your carrier and handset. My iPhone 3G was my first unlocked device, and the first one I could actually build and run software on.

Apple wasn't the first "store", because the carriers tried and failed to operate the same model (curated store of apps from partners, pre-established billing, a big cut for the privilege of working with them, etc).

Apple took off because they had a compelling platform to develop software for, and they were willing to work with orders of magnitude more developers. Apple also was willing to put the store front and center, on the first screen after you set up your phone, and make apps the primary value of the "phone" itself.

> If Jobs had tried this with Mac back in the early 2000s, it would have failed. He got to do it with iPhone because he dominated the market.

If Jobs had tried to do this with the Mac in 2000s, he would be mandating a more closed distribution model and generally more closed operational model, after devices had been in market for 16+ years.

Thats why the Mac has been moving that way as a game of inches over the last decade, while the iPad started there day 1. Just like the iPhone, the platform has only ever had one real supported way for the masses to get software, and the entire security stack is built around it.

Domination would imply that Xbox and Playstation stores (which BTW launched before the iOS App Store) are somehow both dominant, and now Nintendo has emerged into the market also dominant. It is how those platforms were designed. A platform designed like that would likely fade to nothingness just as locked down.

> Apple makes several million/year off their cut from me

So you make 10's of millions a year off your cut from them. Horrible.

> I would drop the App Store in a heartbeat if I could.

You can. Nothing is stoping you. Just do it.

Them might be addicted to the several million a year they make out of the deal.

That's exactly why for me as a customer the stringent review process is a bonus. When thousands of developers autogenerate their apps from templates with minimum amount of original content I want someone to control the floodgates between me and them.

>That's exactly why for me as a customer the stringent review process is a bonus.

Nobody would force you not to continue using the Apple Store or maybe an even better store with even better reviews and with an actual quality static analyzer. Apple fans will say that evil apps will go to the bad App Store, then this would be a great news for you and if for some reason a super quality not evil app will not be on the App Store you can then ask yourself why good apps don't want to.

For sure you will get the option to install a numberous number of GPL software.

Your reply does not follow based on the original comment. An app that generated millions to Apple made multiple millions in revenue from users that found it useful.

There is nothing Apple needs to do to 'protect' you: people are buying the app, it's probably doing something well.

Apple is just milking the developer.

>users that found it useful

"Useful" is a huge stretch. I tried the game "egg, inc" this weekend and one of the mechanics forces you to view adds for other apps, and it's all addiction mechanics with an indecent 'skin' on them.

For example, there is one bejeweled-like game where there is a king who is being tortured, and you must make matches at speed or the spikes are driven into him, or he is forced to pee himself. There is another 'match two' like game where your reward is to take a female character and shave her head so she acts ashamed, and then dress her in streetwalker clothing.

So you're mad about a game unrelated to the GP, that passed through the review process anyway?

So your argument is that Apple's review process is useless?

Ultimately, Apple (and Google) have incentivized developers to make terrible games full of ads. Perhaps that is a larger problem that requires a broader, more systemic solution.

You’re making an assumption that the process actually benefits you in a way you care about. If the actual effect is to drive away developers of useful, thoughtful apps while letting a large fraction if trash through, you’re not actually getting the benefit.

They explicitly said it’s benefiting them in a way they care about.

Similarly, when I put my user hat on (as opposed to my SWE hat) I appreciate the curation, at least compared to the Wild West of downloading applications off the internet.

If those autogenerated apps don't get downloads, reviews, or in-app purchases then they wouldn't perform well in the search results. What the user is asking for are good tools to find good apps. That can include curation and metric based solutions. Having a million apps doesn't change anything because most people stop looking after a handful, if that.

They won't be included in the App Store's search, just on whatever store they're shipped on. And search is tough even on a single app store.

The consumer won't feel the developer struggling with less margin. They won't feel the pain as the developer has to work 30-40% harder.

But the impact to global productivity is substantial. Less innovation occurs. Less energy to try new things. Money doesn't spread as widely as it should.

I find this argument difficult as this is kind of how China operates. This free sharing of IP was claimed to enable untold amounts of innovation. However what I actually see for the most part is a market flooded by shitty clones of original IP.

For example, take this dumb phone[1]. It is powered by a Mediatek processor whose IP is freely shared. The innovation that resulted is not something better like an iPhone. Instead 1000s of different shells or an additional button here or there.

[0]: https://hackaday.com/tag/mt6260/


I guess this scenario might be a bit different since we are talking about software...but i'm not so sure.

You seem to be making some assumptions here. Why would they be making so much money if they were an app farm?

Successful app farms do make a lot of money. Since the development cost of a single app is very low, it doesn't have to bring in much money to become profitable. Produce apps in bulk, and rake in millions.

To be clear, my assumption are based on what I read about developer houses like this. Sometimes (though it is rare) their accounts are getting closed on App Store and they hit the news.

These last few weeks was the first time I dealt with this process. App was rejected for reason 1, resubmitted, now there's a reason 2, which is they clearly didn't read the instructions how to continue, ok, resubmit with more instructions, and now rejected for reason 3. Resubmitted And finally passed. The reviewers were definitely not all applying the same rules/info. Released to prod and it had a major defect for 2/10 people. Dropped a minor update and it took ~48 hours for a review. REALLY frustrating.

The first time I submitted an app it was rejected because something like "the screenshots must be taken from the app". The screenshots were taken from the simulator...

It took a couple more days until the app was finally published while we had thousands of users waiting for it. The company I worked for provided services to schools and its students. Our call center was on fire for a couple of days with calls from annoyed teachers and parents and there was nothing we could do about it.

It's an unwritten rule (actually, I wouldn't be surprised if it's a written rule for their internal review process) that your app will be rejected on the first review.

One of the most valueable insights a mobile freelancer working on our app gave us was to submit the app for first review at least two weeks before planned launch. Just as they anticipated, the first review came back negative because "hey, could you please also make the app work on the iPad?", even though we explicitly marked it as not available for iPad (and didn't include it in the app bundle) to cut down the scope for initial launch.

I've managed to publish apps on the first try, but it's really rare. Most of the time I get 2 or 3 rejections and then an approval - just by continuously telling the app reviewers that the app does in fact comply with the guidelines, citing Apple's definitions of certain terms (which the app reviewers in many cases don't seem to know).

I sympathize; this sort of thing is very frustrating. However, it's better than it was. I was working on iOS apps 7-8 years ago and it was just like the story above, but each review took 2-3 weeks.

Fixing the major defect involved a minor update?

You resubmitted it to Apple twice without noticing, and you're mad at Apple for all the "delays". Really? Other developers were waiting their turn in the review line while you were going back and forth with the reviewers on an update that was defective from the start. Take some responsibility!

You've never written a bug that wasn't discovered until production? I certainly have, and given that I still haven't found the secret to never doing so again, I also build systems that are updatable with as little friction as possible.

I don't see how the parent failed to take responsibility. They were responsible for the bug. Apple was responsible for the delay in the fix.

Were they? Apple does have a process for expedited review of critical bug fixes. But that’s not for ‘minor updates’. It’s not at all clear they attempted to get expedited review.

I'm been in the middle of dealing with app review for a client these last couple weeks. One part I find very frustrating (though there are many), but don't see discussed very frequently, is the hubris imbued by Apple in their review process.

They'll flatly state "you're in violation of the guidelines in Area A". So I'll submit a detailed and well-written response explaining why there are good reasons the app does what it does in Area A. They will basically say absolutely nothing in response to my submission, but instead switch gears to saying "your app is in violation of the guidelines in Area B".

I'll explain why what the app does in Area B is for good reasons, they won't verbally acknowledge it at all, but will then bring up Area C. Rinse and repeat.

It's rather demeaning and demoralizing to be constantly treated like "YOU'RE WRONG", explain why you're not wrong, get no "thank you" or "we're sorry for the accusation", then have to immediately deal with another "WRONG AGAIN". Much like an emotionally abusive partner.

There is a simple and far more humane alternative: they could go with something like "we have concerns about Area A and it might be in violation of the guidelines, but we'd like to hear your input first before delivering an acceptance or rejection - please respond with further details".

Thanks for attending my vent session lol

I’m skeptical the surprise is genuine.

The App Store review process has always been an issue. It is slower than Android’s approach, preventing effective stages rollouts. It slows down iteration speed. It forces teams to ship at Apple’s cadence.

Compare the process with the sophistication of a mature devops team for a web app. The App Store is orders of magnitude less effective.

It’s frankly hard to believe that Apple hasn’t had hires in the relevant teams, that came from dev teams that felt bottlenecked by this process.

The app review process has been a black box for years. There have been stories of app developers writing or saying something critical of Apple, then inexplicably their next release gets stuck in a long review or gets declined for a reason that's not related to what has changed. That might be why people are reluctant to complain too loudly, to the extent that the latter is even true.

i think a big issue is that apple thinks of apps like actual "things" you can buy on a store shelf whereas just about every app is actually some kind of going concern that needs to deploy anytime and anywhere... it just doesn't scale

It's not just the review process that frustrates me, it seems to be every tool and service.

Even something as basic as logging in: Apple does not support proper TOTP, they only support SMS 2FA (or their trusted device second factor - I don't want to be glued to my Mac), which has been great when I'm out of signal or a few months ago when their SMS system went down.

Every time I have a problem like this, I just think back to the Magic Mouse with the charging port on the bottom.

You missed other bigger issues with even App Store Connect. On Safari, Apple’s own browser, Safari Password Autofill can’t work very well. Checking “remember this computer” doesn’t seem to last.

I have spent 2 days trying to upload an App Preview (video) and you drag and drop the video file onto the box and absolutely nothing happens, not even an error.

We’re paying $100/year for these tools!

> Every time I have a problem like this, I just think back to the Magic Mouse with the charging port on the bottom.

I thought this was the dumbest goddamn thing ever until I was issued one at work. It turned out to be completely fine. The (long) battery life and (fast) charge time make it a non-issue. The degree to which it'd have been better with a more-traditionally-placed port is so tiny that it's hardly worth consideration.

Now, the backward-ass assumptions about how I'll prefer to charge my gen. 1 Pencil and which mode would be the better one to require a tiny, easy-to-lose adapter—that's another matter. "Surely users will want to plug it in to an iOS device lightning port to charge, such that it makes the iOS device nearly impossible to use while the Pencil's charging, and in a way that looks designed to break the charging connector on the Pencil if you look at it wrong, rather than simply charging it with their normal charger—which they couldn't use to charge the iOS device while the pencil's in its lightning port, anyway—while continuing to use their tablet or phone normally. Surely wanting to plug it in to a normal charger will be unusual, and not something that people want to do in all but the most unusual circumstances." eyeroll

Either "Apple" is lying or "Apple" should be fired for incompetence.

Since they control ALL the process and have ALL the logs and data points, so there's absolute no reason to be "surprised".

Also there are plenty of internal emails talking about many reasons for these "frustrations". Maybe our guy Tim Cook is really a Michael Spindler type of guy.

Many of us have certainly used a number of indirect channels like forum posts, blogs, podcasts, etc. but I for one have also used several direct channels:

- I have filled out their “developer surveys” multiple times and explained in very direct, precise terms what is so very wrong with App Review and which parts I do not want. And I’m not talking 2021, lots of this was an issue (and flagged as such) years earlier.

- I have used the Feedback system to “suggest” changes.

- I have directly communicated with App Review over my own rejections.

I mean, even if you ignore the insane size and resources of Apple, they can’t say they weren’t told. I’d be very surprised if it weren’t in the top 3 gripes from all surveys.

> If an app is rejected, Apple says it provides the developer with information on the reason for the rejection, and says that the app makers have an opportunity to "correspond with the Apple team member who reviewed the app." Furthermore, developers have a chance to appeal a rejection to the App Store Review Board.

Having been through this and heard stories from others, Apple will send you the very broad section of the rules they think (often incorrectly) that you've violated, but they won't tell you what part of your app is violating which part of the section of rules quoted. The correspondence with the Apple team member will just reiterate the rules, and won't tell you what you're supposedly doing wrong with any sort of specificity.

I have (had) been developing for the Mac, then iOS, since 2002, coming originally from a UNIX/Linux background. I essentially got out of doing any iOS development work specifically because of the review process and its hoop-jumping and awful opaqueness. I was only able to do it as long as I did because I was making developer-facing tools for seven years at Mapbox and didn't have to submit apps.

This is a good candidate for joke of the year.

I have an app that plays music. Sometimes I get asked to do a screen recording of the app, as the reviewer doesn’t have any music on the device.

This one time I did this, but they saw me launch the app from TestFlight. They told me I had to record it on a real device and not a simulator. You can’t get TestFlight on the simulator, so they don’t even know their own tools. Would not believe me. Ended up recording my physical phone before they would believe me.

After reading the actual submission by Apple that the article links to, I think the article (especially the title) somewhat misrepresents what Apple said.

The overview section of Apple's submission states (numbering in original)

> 1. Apple understands that the Commission has received submissions from certain app developers concerning their ability to engage with Apple in the app review process.

> 2. As outlined in our meeting of 23 February 2021, Apple is surprised to hear that developers have legitimate concerns about their ability to engage with Apple in the app review process in circumstances where the purpose of app review is to ensure the quality of apps on the App Store and Apple invests significant time and resources in engaging with developers directly to work together to achieve that shared goal.

> 3. Apple would therefore like to provide further information to the Commission to assist it in assessing the veracity of the concerns raised by developers in their submissions.

Personally I would paraphrase that not as Apple claiming to be "surprised" by developer concerns, but rather as Apple claiming to be surprised by "legitimate" developer concerns. Or to put a finer point on it, that Apple isn't actually claiming to be surprised at all and "surprised to hear" is just a euphemistic way to say that they don't believe the complaints the commission has received are legitimate.

Probably a smart choice of wording on Apple's part - I don't think it would have been a better look if the headline had instead been "Apple Suggests That Developers’ Complaints Are Just Sour Grapes".

Then perhaps Apple should make submissions to the ACCC in a less passive-aggressive manner.

I have shipped many app updates and undergone review thousands of times. Will skip Apple's store gladly.

I wouldn’t read much in that. It’s from a formal reply to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, so it’s legalese/PR/politics, probably vetted by a committee, with none of them entirely happy with the final result.


People talk. They talk HERE.

Frankly, I read that surprise as real surprise all the PR didn't make it go away.

Maybe they meant “delighted” and autocorrect mistyped

This is 7 months old; why post now?

This article is from March - maybe that should be in the title?

I don't think it especially makes a difference. Apple being surprised by something that has been a widespread complaint for as long as I can remember is either duplicitous or a worrying indictment of their lack of contact with the developer community. We're talking over a decade so it makes little odds whether this piece of written in March or 5 years ago - it's fairly awful in either case.

Five years ago (IIRC) their reviews took 3-7 days. Someone made a really useful website where people would self-report the review time, and it estimated the current average.

This completely pulled down Apple's pants, which silently fixed their review process so it took less than a day. It was so effective the website became irrelevant, but it seems like the wheels are turning around.

Edit: this is the website https://appreviewtimes.com, and it seems like the review time has been stable at 1-2 days for a while.

That website seems a little strange. For example, they link to a page gushing over online casinos on their homepage. It feels almost like a recipe site in that there are out-of-place overly detailed facts combined with slightly irrelevant prose.

> In-depth Look at Online Casino Apps In Michigan ... Golden Nugget

> Download Size

> You can download this app on iOS or Android. It’s 33.6 MB for iPhones and just over 5MB for Android phones.

> What Can You Bet On?

> Golden Nugget has a ton of interesting games, including 320+ slots... Keep in mind that most of these games are original, so you can’t play them anywhere else...

> Interesting Features

> Aside from the live dealer games, Golden Nugget offers an excellent rewards program. You can earn points by playing or entering promotions, and you can get cash prizes. It’s similar to a sweepstakes program without the complex currency exchanges.


I guess it still drives some traffic worth profiting from ads, but you can read the whole story here: https://daveverwer.com/blog/saying-goodbye-to-app-review-tim...

Any idea how it got them to improve themselves here? Rather highlighting the issue to turn or them fearing embarrassment from the number being clearly available?

It doesn't say because Apple being Apple, it never acknowledged it had a problem, but this is the gist:

> In 2016 Phil Schiller took over the App Store group inside Apple and pretty quickly review times reduced from weeks to “about a day” across all of the stores and review times have now been consistent for about three years. In my mind this problem is totally solved.

Whole story here: https://daveverwer.com/blog/saying-goodbye-to-app-review-tim...

I'm pretty sure devs are still frustrated and Apple "surprised" since then.

Apple likely to remain "surprised" for the foreseeable future.

HN titles don't really have an option for that (the mods allow years only), but you could flag it to indicate that you don't think it's a valuable contribution to the front page.

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