The Apple iPhone App Store Approval Process: A Really Inefficient Route for Getting to the Right Decision

By  |  Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 11:57 pm

Bobble RepBobble Rep, the iPhone application that lets you find and contact your senators and members of congress and which depicts them as bobblehead dolls, is no longer an app non grata. After initially rejecting the program, Apple has done an about face and pushed it through to the App Store. (On my iPhone, at least, it’s profoundly hobbled by error messages I’ve never seen before–but the program is only 99 cents, so I can live with the disappointment.)

The tale of Bobble Rep–app is submitted, app is rejected, controversy ensues, app is accepted–is a remarkably common one on the App Store. Yes, I know that the fast majority of programs submitted are quietly accepted without incident. But of the ones that are initially nixed, a high percentage seem to make it into the store eventually. ¬†(Offhand, the only apps I wish I could get that Apple has denied me are Google Voice and the 3G-capable version of SlingPlayer; if there’s a bad guy in the latter instance, it’s AT&T, whose terms of service specifically prohibit apps that reroute TV over its network.)

Apple, in other words, usually manages to do the right thing–it’s just that it sometimes does it after doing the wrong thing and getting slapped around in the blogosphere. Wouldn’t it be more efficient for everyone concerned–and less embarrassing for Apple and the iPhone platform–if it figured out it should really approve these apps before rejecting them and sending so many people into a tizzy? I’m a mere bystander, and I can usually tell which rejected apps Apple is going to reverse itself on. Can’t someone within Apple figure out the same thing, and just fast-forward to the correct outcome?


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8 Comments For This Post

  1. Ben Says:

    Perhaps the poor quality of the BobbleHead App, (which is say “is profoundly hobbled by error messages…never seen before”) offers a potential insight into why some Apps are initially rejected but then eventually approved. Might it be that Apple is simply doing a check for quality as well? While my iPhone was jail-broken for a few months this past summer (so I could unlock it for using service overseas), I downloaded a bunch of Apps from Cydia and Icy, and was actually appalled at the poor quality of many of them. I remember thinking: “Man, Apple would NEVER have let these Apps on the App Store!” –So now when I read that your BobbleHead App still has error codes after being approved, I’m wondering just how much of a mess it must have been the first time they submitted it! Personally, I really appreciate Apple’s efforts to monitor and ensure that all of the Apps on the App store meet some minimum of quality and usefulness, and in a clean and PG-13 way (I’ve got kids, after all!)

  2. AdamC Says:

    Judging from the way the apps are allowed on the Appstore I got a feeling that there is no central committee that vet the appropriateness of approved apps and because of the pressure of the number of apps submitted once they passed the vetting by the person doing it will be allowed in the Appstore.

    I hope Apple will have one set up to vet the the appropriateness of the approved apps before they are allowed in the Appstore.

    I maybe wrong and love to be enlightened.

  3. drew Says:

    I do not have an IPhone, and have only played with a few apps on a friend’s phone, but I find this discussion very interesting. Are there any number for the people vetting the apps? Are there criteria for developers saying what is specifically prohibited. From the stories I have seen elsewhere, it seems someone is making the wrong judgement call, and then, as Harry writes, they do a lot of back-peddling. With 100,000 apps, and even 100 people doing the vetting, that is still a 1,000 apps per person.

  4. Ruth Says:

    It seems like the same people who judge an app’s technical qualifications are the ones who decide its appropriateness on other levels (moral, ethical, political). Seems to me that those judgements require two separate skill sets!

    Why not have a second tier – before rejecting an app which is judged as technically solid, but the techie thinks might not be OK for other reasons, send it on to someone paid to judge THAT. Yes, it’s an extra step, an extra pair of eyes on a bunch of apps, but Apple could save a lot of embarrasment that way.

  5. John R. Haigh Says:

    There are different Apple reviewers. We had one icon in our app, Mark On Call, for 6 months. We submitted a new version and Apple made us change it and resubmit. Another huge thing they did in an effort to help that is really hurting: banned keywords from app names. If you don’t send in the right 100 characters of keywords (separately) correctly, you’re app can become invisible except if ranked in the top 100. Developers were making their “name” more of a title in order to help with app discovery. All new versions have to be the name and not keywords added to it. Our sales have temporarily suffered by 60-80% because of this change. Sometimes people/companies “improve” things with good intentions only to make it worse (at least in the short term).

  6. dpme Says:

    John-thanks for the insights! I am not a programmer, but I understand some of the Apps can me many, many MB in size. Are they examining for content (political, etc) and for the code underneath, looking for things such as malware and the like?

  7. Swoopo Says:

    Thnks for info, Ineeded to know iphone app process, my app submit got turned down couple of month ago. sux

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