Acing the App Store Approval, Part 2: In the Waiting Line

Mastering the App Store approval process

Last week, we dove in to our discussion of the App Store approval process by talking about all the little details you might overlook when submitting your app. But we didn’t really delve into the timeline and what the process looks like once your app is officially submitted.

How long does the approval process take?

Although the total time required for the review and approval of applications has varied in recent years, it now takes approximately 8 days (including Saturdays and Sundays). Out of those 8 days, the application will wait for the review for around 7 of them, and once it enters the actual review, it will be approved or rejected within 24 hours in most cases. The twist is if the app gets stuck in the review process for more than 24 hours—that’s usually a clear indicator that something is probably not in accordance with the rules. The reviewer is likely seeking for help from senior staff in order to decide whether the application should be approved or not.

If the application gets rejected, and the reason for the rejection is a simple misunderstanding (e.g., you mention that you support Augmented Reality in the app description, but the reviewer can’t find the feature), the process will continue after you send an email with an additional explanation to Apple. Such a conflict is usually resolved within the next 24 hours, but depending on the complexity of the decision, or how many instances there are, it may even take several days or weeks.

The thing that will definitely set you back in time is if you send a new version of the existing application to the App Store while the old one is still waiting for its review. Then you will definitely be thrown to the back of the queue and you will need to wait an additional 8 days.

Expedited Procedure

The team at Apple is somewhat sympathetic to urgent situations when you can’t wait for the standard approval time of 8 days. If you discover a critical bug, or if you are late with the development of an app for an event, you can send a request for a so-called Expedited Review.

You will be notified by an email whether your request qualifies for the fast procedure or not. If it does, your application will usually be reviewed within 24 hours (sometimes it can take up to three days). Expedited reviews are granted on limited basis and is not advisable to rely on the fact that each request for such review will be accepted.

Filing Complaints

No matter how hard you try, there are situations in which you do everything right, but the application may still be rejected. For example, our application for the famous rapper, 50 Cent, was rejected on the grounds that it did not provide enough value to be released in the App Store. (By the way, this application currently has over 100,000 users and an average rating of 5 stars in the opinion of 300 of them.) Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures, so in a similar situation, you will have to file a complaint.

Filing a complaint will result in a change of your reviewer. More precisely, you will get a board of reviewers. This committee will consider your comments and review the application much more carefully than during the “normal” process. Being rejected by the App Review Board, means that there is no higher authority that you can continue to appeal to. Some developers, whose appeal was rejected, tried to fight with Apple in the media, but we don’t know any case that ended up with a positive outcome for the developer. Once the decision is made by the board, it’s done.

Conclusion

Although the App Store Review Guidelines ​​helped the consistency of the review process, the fact remains that it’s still dependent on subjective assessment of Apple ‘s reviewers. The good news is that, in our experience, the situations in which applications are being unfairly rejected are extremely rare. And when things get complicated, it’s worth remembering that the folks in Cupertino are people like us. They  might make mistakes sometimes, but they want what our customers and what we want: top-quality software and a mobile application that is a pleasure to use.

Saša Šarunić