Roller Coaster App Store Review
In my last post I covered how CaseCollage evolved from an idea to a shipped app in just 2 weeks. It took everything we had and a little more (thanks friends) but we got the job done. We started the app the day after the 5c was announced. My fingers ached (maybe an exaggeration) and my eyelids were heavy, but I felt amazing knowing we executed on something so quickly. Cloud 9 here we come!
The high quickly faded as we waited for the first version of CaseCollage to be approved by Apple. For those who haven’t experienced the awesomeness that is the App Store review process, let me tell you what I’ve learned after publishing more than a handful of apps: just about nothing. I’m not alone here. The App Store approval process is basically a black box. Apps go in, some apps get published and some apps get rejected. There are rules but they seem intentionally vague and they are inconsistently enforced. There are some moments of human interaction but they are few and far between. Most of the time you’re just looking at the beautifully designed iTunes Connect portal showing a “waiting for review” status and hoping something is moving your app closer to publication.
Most of the time App Store approval doesn’t worry me. It may take a while, but eventually you get through as long as you aren’t skirting the line. This time we worried that Apple wouldn’t allow an app that sort of poked fun at them. We could be rejected for a million vague reasons and be stuck in App Store purgatory forever, our hard work nothing but a battle scar. We had seen that the average review time when we submitted was around 7 days thanks to crowd-sourced data. On day 7 our app went into review as expected. I got a push notification and alerted the troops: the time had come!
A half hour later I got another push notification. The app had been rejected:
It seems the tester could not complete an IAP with our app. I had tested that feature over and over before submitting but for some reason it seemed broken (the IAP system being another Apple black box). The App Store seemed to have had some server issues during our review, so I submitted an appeal, hoping the issue was on their end. We were rejected again, this time for using “5c” in our branding. We talked about being careful with the branding from the beginning of the project but somehow in the chaos we had changed the name to “CaseCollage5c”. We had waited a week for these verdicts (half of our development time) and were now being sent to the back of the line.
We knew we had to submit an update ASAP so we rushed to put out the fire. We changed our handles on social media accounts, updated our website, and removed most of the references to 5c in our app and App Store listing. Rebranded in just 3 hours, we resubmitted the binary and went straight back to waiting. Estimates indicated we had another week to wait in review. What a roller coaster. And even if all went well this time, we’d ship 4 weeks after the launch of the 5c and may have missed our marketing window. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed.
A week later the app went into review for the 3rd time. This time we were approved! Two weeks after we finished coding the app it was finally available to the public. I can’t explain how relieved I was. It would seem the hard work was over, but we were just getting started. Now we had to figure out how to tell the world about CaseCollage.