Developers fret over Mac App Store approval times

How long does it take for Apple to approve new entries in its Mac App Store? Nobody knows exactly and Apple is mum. Too long, say developers.
Written by David Morgenstern, Contributor

A number of posts over the past month point to growing concerns by developers about approval times for applications in the Mac App Store. Apple isn't reporting the average wait times and the problem appears to be the time spent in the approval process, not in getting the approved app up onto the App Store.

Bay Area developer Dan Wood posted about his company's first year of experience with the App Store (he is the co-founder of Karelia Software, the makers of the excellent website creation tool Sandvox). He said the company was initially concerned about sales cannibalization. However, they found that the App Store was "just another discovery mechanism and distribution mechanism, existing in addition to our own website and online store."

While I think the App Store is a great way to succeed, I don't agree with the decisions that a few of my fellow indie developers have made to stop offering their product on their own website and switch to the App Store exclusively. In today's world, I think the best idea is to have your app available in both distributions.

Now let's hope that the App Store team will do something about these worsening review queue times. (It's not the actual review that takes a long time, but waiting to get reviewed.) ...

Wood continued that the latest Sandvox update had taken a month to approve. "Our latest update had us waiting a month ..."

According to a report at MacRumors, wait times at the Mac App Store have been growing longer in the past half a year. This is based on data from a developer-training firm named Shiny Development and shows a rising trend from 7 days to almost a month in October.

The trend for iOS apps is less severe and is based on more substantial data as would be expected for the larger iOS App Store, with 471 data points being included from the past 30 days. Average iOS App Store review times have been within a range of 3-11 days over the past year and currently sit at one week after declining from their peak roughly two months ago.

Lex Friedman at Macworld has an excellent article on the delay times and points to the initial slowdown coming from Apple's allocation of programming resources.

Sources suggested to Macworld that when Mac App Store approval times first started slowing down, the blame fell squarely on iOS 6 and the iPhone 5. Developers rushed to submit apps that took advantage of the new operating system and the new iPhone’s taller screen, and Apple chose to reallocate resources from the Mac App Store approval queue to the iOS queue instead.

Friedman says that Apple declined to comment on his story (naturally).

At last report, Apple said that the iOS App Store had approved 89 percent of new app submissions, and 95 percent of submitted app updates, within eight business days. The only problem: While Apple used to update that number daily, it now hasn’t been updated since July 6 of this year.

And that number, of course, is only minimally useful. Developers mostly care about how long they — and thus, their customers — must wait to get their apps approved. The stale number doesn’t help developers at all, and again, Apple’s never offered a similar stat, stale or otherwise, for Mac App Store developers.

This is a sign of Apple's OS X growing pains. Apple has to keep its eyes on all of its platforms: the newer shinier iOS platform, as well as its older OS X platform, which keeps growing in every market segment. If Apple wants to direct developers and customers to a new channel, then it needs to properly support that channel, even if it means extra costs, at startup time and on an ongoing basis. These wait times must come down.

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