App Store Roundtable: Transparency and the Approval System


For our next installment of the App Store Roundtable, we talked with developers about an issue that comes up time and again: the application approval system and the overall transparency of the inner workings of the App Store. When developers submit their products to Apple, we have to cross our fingers and hope they’ll be allowed into the App Store, as there’s very little consistency or feedback.

My biggest gripe about selling in the App Store is Apple’s lack of status updates during the review process. Even a “we received your app and are reviewing it” would be a big help.

— Doug Davies, developer of JiggleBalls

I guess the single most burning issue with the App Store is the intransparent review process. One submits an app, then after an indeterminate time it is approved or not; there are no clean cut rules; there is no public timeline; there is no ETA; there is no feedback (even a page in the dev center with “Status: Waiting for review,” “reviewing” or something equally vague would help).

— Martin J. Laubach, developer of Moonlight

The whole process needs a lot more transparency because developers are the lifeblood of the appstore and they need to plan their future development and marketing initiatives based on some general time line. If Apple subjectively rejects an app for “being too simple” when there are literally hundreds of simpler apps already in the store, they are hurting the development process. There currently aren’t any guidelines for what is “too simple.”

— Dan of Rareapps

I also feel that apple is not giving the approval process enough attention, we should not have to put up with scandals such as the port of the famous Nintendo Duck Hunt (exact graphics ) in there. Apple should develop a quality assurance process within its approval process so completely ridiculous games wont get through.

— Brynjar Gigja of On The Rocks, developer of Tiltafun

The biggest issue for us is the lack of information on how the App Store really works. So much of what we do hinges on how the store operates- how and when applications are approved, which apps are featured, exactly how the top 100 list is computed, and how release dates work. Knowing how these details work is key, but in depth information has never been provided.

— Andy Korth of Howling Moon Software, developer of Crayon Ball

Featured Slots

If you gather two or more iPhone developers together at any time the conversation will inevitably touch on the featured lists. These are the suggested apps you see in the various App Store lists (What’s New, What’s Hot etc.), and most apps that are lucky enough to get one of these slots find themselves with many thousands of dollars worth of extra sales. This is another area where developers would welcome more transparency.

I’d really like Apple to be clear how they choose to feature apps. Is there anything that can be done to help, or anything which definitely blocks you from being featured?

— Tim Haines, developer of BurnBall

I would like to know more about how Apple chooses it’s featured products, I would like Apple to give us developers more heads up to changes in the market place, what they have in mind for the future so we can adjust.

— Brynjar Gigja

There’s this feeling that the app review and featuring department is completely isolated from the world. There seems to be nothing, or very little you can do as an independent to get their attention.

— Mike Kasprzak

It would be nice if you could pitch your app to Apple (or even a monetary model) so that you could be displayed at the top level (other than by release date) for a few days. As an “indie” it’s frustrating trying to get exposure.

— Doug Davies

Join us next time?

If you are an iPhone developer with experience of the App Store and would like to participate by sharing some opinions in future App Store Roundtables, please get in touch via our contact form.