Former App Store Review Boss Discusses App Approval Process: Bloomberg

Apple’s app approval process is one of the strictest, and the Cupertino company has many rules that developers must adhere to if they want to see their app reach the store.

A new Bloomberg interview with Apple’s former head of App Store reviews, Phillip Shoemaker, sheds some light on the sometimes opaque review process of new apps and how the system evolved over his time running the process, from 2009 through 2016.

According to Shoemaker, three employees used to be in charge of reviewing one app, which later became one employee to reduce time constraints:

In the early days, Apple had three reviewers look at each app. That led to long review times, which eventually decreased after the process shifted to one set of eyes, he said. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing who oversees the App Store, pushed for humans to review all apps, rather than just automated tools, to limit improper or buggy apps, Shoemaker said. Still, he said “there’s a lot of stuff in the store that shouldn’t be there.” Apple declined to comment.

As far as the early reviewal process went, Shoemaker notes that it used to be quite hit-and-miss. He recounts a particular incident in which a “baby-shaking” app was approved, which in turn drove down the company’s stock price. Shoemaker says that this mistake earned him a phone call from Apple founder Steve Jobs himself.

“Steve just had simple words for me: ‘You’re stupid and you hire stupid people,'” he says. “This was one of the best conversations I had with Steve. It was so succinct and to the point. He hung up the phone.”

Shoemaker also notes that Apple has long expected apps from companies like Google and Facebook would create apps that rival core iOS features such as calling and messaging, noting that this fear is “absolutely the reason” that the company still doesn’t allow users set third-party apps as the default service for these primary functions.

“That was a real thing. I mean the fear that somebody would come along, a Facebook, a Google, whomever and wipe off and remove all of our items,” Shoemaker said. “Once they started using these other apps, they’d be thinking more about Google now.”

Shoemaker also stated the difficulty that came with rejecting an app, saying “You are what’s stopping an app from getting on the store and potentially making money for this developer to put food on the table and send their kids to school. It broke my heart every time I had to make those calls.”

The entire interview offers a fascinating look at Apple’s app review process and is well worth the read over at Bloomberg.

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