tl;dr – Apple policy may now say they won’t hold up your urgent bugfix, but that doesn’t stop them holding it ‘in review’ for an unusually long time so that it is never actually released…
I have had plenty of ‘robust discussions’ with App Review. Sometimes they come round to my way of thinking – I have had several appeals approved. Sometimes Apple just isn’t budging. Until this occasion though they have always been polite and engaged in good faith. I have never felt that a reviewer was punishing me out of spite. This time, I feel like I really got a ‘Bad Apple’ at Apple.
This particular Apple Review nightmare kicked off when a reviewer decided that my bugfix release:
- Enabled auto-launch without the user’s permission
- Had an app preview video which breaks the rules
Convincing them that they were wrong about #1 was easy. I just had to show the screenshot where my app asks the user if they want to enable the recommended settings and explicitly lists ‘auto-launch’ as one that will be enabled.
Number 2 was harder. Here is the video causing the problem:
For context, this video has been in place for about 18 months, and has (successfully) gone through about 30 reviews so far. You can see it now in the app store listing.
Multi Monitor Wallpaper is an app that sets the wallpaper across multiple monitors. It really needs a way in the app preview to show the multiple monitors in action. So – it ‘zooms out’ allowing you to see the full effect.
This, my reviewer insists breaches the (unwritten) rule
Your app preview includes content that does not sufficiently reflect the app in use. Specifically, your preview:
– Includes device images and/or device frames.
I understand where the frames thing comes from. Apple don’t want a video of people using their Mac in the coffee shop with the app running. They want to see the app itself.
In my case though – the monitors (and frames) _are_ the app. I think that makes this a reasonable and honest app preview. The reviewers when I first submitted the preview 18 months ago obviously agree, and none of the 30ish reviews since then have had a problem with it.
Nonetheless, my reviewer wasn’t budging. They said:
We advise appeal this review by sending a request to the App Review Board. As you may be aware, the App Review Board was created for developers to appeal an app review they have concerns with.
Once the App Review Board has completed their evaluation, they will contact you directly.
Recently, Apple published new guidelines which promised developers that
Bug Fix Submissions: For apps that are already on the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues.https://developer.apple.com/news/?id=xqk627qu
I really like the new policy. It seems reasonable. This certainly was a bug fix submission. It fixes a crashing bug when users click on one of my image search providers (Unsplash)
I did see your message suggesting that I should appeal to the app review board. I’m will do that today.
In the meantime, there is a significant bug which this version fixes (there is an immediate crash if you click to browse Unsplash).
As per your press release, I understand that ‘bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues.’, so would appreciate it if you could publish this update as soon as possible.
And, I submitted my appeal, and copied it into the resolution centre to keep my reviewer up to date.
At this time, you will need to follow the pending guidance from the App Review Board.
I explained that I wasn’t aware of any pending guidance and asked again
Bug Fix Submissions: For apps that are already on the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues.[…]
this is a bug fix submission. I haven’t changed the AppPreview video. I would like to take advantage of this process.
I will address this issue in my next submission if my appeal is not supported by the Appeal Board
still ‘computer says no’
Thank you for your response.
To clarify, the App Review Board will be in contact with you, as you currently have a pending appeal.
I tried again
I’m happy for the review board to be in contact with me.
As you say – I have a pending appeal (at your explicit suggestion)
Apple have communicated publicly (via press release and direct email) that ‘bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues.’
If this is indeed a guideline violation, it certainly doesn’t relate to legal issues.
I’m asking you to honour that explicit public commitment.
that got me close to what I needed
Thank you for providing this information.
If this is a bug fix submission, you may elect to have it approved at this time.
If you would like to take advantage of this opportunity, please respond in Resolution Center to confirm that you can address these issues in your next submission. Additionally, please let us know if you have any questions about how to resolve these issues. If you believe this decision was made incorrectly, you may appeal your app rejection. You may also provide feedback on our review guidelines.
well – I must admit I thought the reviewer was just throwing up an extra step here to be annoying, but I confirmed. Shortly later, I got the promising response
Thank you for providing this information.
We will continue the review, and we will notify you if there are any further issues.
Now. We need a little diversion. How long does a review take?
I have put quite a few updates on Multi Monitor Wallpaper.
This is how long the recent reviews took from the point where they moved to the ‘In Review’ status.
- 9-Sept, 5 mins
- 8 Sept, 16 mins
- 25 July, 20mins
- 23 July, 20 mins
- 21 July, 24 mins
- 16 July, 7 hrs
- 24 Jun, 1hr 40mins
- 11 Jun, 6hrs
Mostly about 20 mins. Sometimes 6 or 7 hours.
How long do you think it takes for a very simple bugfix with no changes to the overall app – where Apple is allowing it through because of their commitment ‘not to hold up bugfix releases’ ?
I don’t know the answer to that.
My app changed status to ‘In Review’ on the 11 Sep 2020 at 23:27
It has been over 60 hours so far and I am still waiting.
After 24 hours, I even submitted a request for an expedited review. That was granted – but nothing has happened yet.
Perhaps I have just been unlucky, and the reviewer who seemed to deliberately throw up steps to avoid allowing my bugfix until I asked whether Apple were good to their word; Perhaps that reviewer just had a family emergency and accidentally left my app in the queue.
I think they’re punishing me.
They’re also punishing our shared customers who currently have to use a crashing app.
I’ll keep this post updated.
Update. 68 hours after moving to ‘In Review’, Multi Monitor Wallpaper was finally approved.
Remember that this was the process to ‘not hold up an urgent bugfix release’
Note – quotes of discussions with App Review are fairly heavily edited for brevity, in that they don’t show everything said. Everything quoted is verbatim though.
If any press want full details, I’ll be happy to share the complete conversation.