Developers suffering through 'Kafkaesque' App Store Review process

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The App Store Review process is failing developers for being "Kafkaesque," the CEO of coding app Hopscotch claims, with system bugs and inconsistent application of policies preventing a legitimate app update from passing through.

In a Twitter thread published on August 26, Hopscotch co-founder and CEO Samantha John shares the events that she went through to submit an app update to the App Store. The update was one that fixed bugs, but it was rejected for completely different reasons.

Apple rejected the app as its "promoted in-app purchases had identical titles and descriptions which could be confusing to users." However, John says the titles and descriptions were already different, but changed them to increase differentiation and resubmitted the app.

After receiving a second rejection one day later, John says she was "in a Kafkaesque universe where I had to blindly guess at what could be wrong and randomly change things until the bureaucrats let me through."

On the advice of a contact at Apple, an appeal was submitted with screenshots. Apple allowed the bug fix through, but advised the rejection was still valid, and that a further update was required to comply with guidelines.

Three days later, she received a phone call from the App Review team, enquiring if she planned to update the app. John told the representative she didn't know what the problem was, and that in her view, the app complied with the initial complaint.

At that point, the representative looked further and admitted "I think the automated software must have had a glitch."

The representative then claimed "I saw that your rejection was a mistake and wanted to call and tell you," despite the start of the call being about why the app wasn't fixed.

While John has met Apple employees who are supportive of Hopscotch, she adds "there is something rotten in a system that treats developers in this way." John continues "The way that Apple wasted my energy, gaslighted me, and sucked my time away made me furious."

Apple later contacted John to apologize and request feedback on the ordeal.

To fix the situation, the Hopscotch CEO suggests Apple could "measure success by the time for an app to get approved, not just the time for the developer to get a response," to allow apps that are held up for reasons unrelated to the update to pass through in favor of a later fix, and to make it easier to leave feedback.

John also had trouble with App Store Connect, due to an extra hurdle in accepting a new tax agreement before resubmitting. "The 30-second load time and the number of clicks it takes to accomplish anything is the icing on the cake of despair," she adds.

The Twitter thread arrived at the same time as Apple agreed to a settlement to a lawsuit from developers over App Store policies. Along with establishing a $100 million assistance fund and changes to communications between developers and customers, Apple agreed to update its App Review website with additional information on the appeals process.

In June, Apple made a number of changes to its App Review guidelines, including prohibiting manipulating reviews, extra requirements in the Developer Code of Conduct, and the reformatting of guidelines. At the time, Apple also updated the App Review contact form, to allow developers to say if they believe a rejection was unfair or biased, and to report other apps for safety concerns.