iOS 9 and app store review time

as with iOS 7 and 8, iOS 9 caused a lot of problems with Sketch Club. ahead of its release i had been testing with early versions of iOS 9 and fixing up all the issues i could find. there were also some Sketch Club beta testers with prerelease iOS 9 who helped find issues.

i got a new version of the app sent off to Apple about a week before iOS 9's release hoping it would be reviewed, approved, and land in the store right on time. unfortunately the review times have been extra long and it wasn't until many days after that it did. in the meantime everyone who updated to iOS 9 right away were stuck with some major bugs and incompatibilities and all i could do was let them know an update was waiting review with Apple.

meanwhile new issues with the app on iOS 9 were being discovered that i and the beta testers hadn't bumped into yet. most were fixed by simple changes that just took a few minutes to appease the new OS version. before 2.1.1 made it through the review queue i had a 2.1.2 build with more fixes ready to go. and ..... just had to patiently wait.  ... and answer thousands of emails letting people know updates were on the way and we just had to wait. and wait.  and wait. and after 2.1.1 finally made it into the app store.... now the long wait for 2.1.2 to wait for review. ... and ... still waiting.

with so much waiting one can't help but think about why there is all this waiting and that there must be better ways to approach this! :)

here's my theory: Apple intentionally makes app updates sit in a long queue.

there are a lot of companies in this "internet age" that take approaches like Facebook's "move fast and break things." they aim for fast iteration and getting things out to customers as quickly as possible, getting feedback, and rapidly turning around with changes then repeating again and again to refine the product. this is not Apple. Apple instead holds onto a product a very long time to refine and perfect it before release. they believe in shipping something super polished that has already been through dozens of iterations before the public ever sees it. in attempt to instill this same discipline in the app store they artificially delay release of app updates.

the idea may be that knowing there's a long delay to get updates out developers should take greater care in polishing and testing releases because anything that goes out there people will be stuck with for awhile. Apple may hope artificial delays to help minimize churn and maximize fit and finish throughout apps in the store.

unfortunately it leaves us stuck with situations like a change to iOS breaking existing functionality that people depend on and even though fixes are accomplished within hours they must wait over a week to roll out. yuck!!

i'll propose a solution. for apps in good standing (pass some criteria like have been around awhile, have good reviews, lots of users, whatever) allow users to see and install updates for it that haven't been reviewed yet. so you can imagine going to the updates tab in the app store and seeing a new update is awaiting review for an app you have. you could choose to install it early or just wait for Apple to vet it and get the update normally. this would give a way for particular users affected by an issue to get a solution immediately while still providing a longer delay for it to reach the masses.

we're actually almost there with the TestFlight beta system Apple introduced but there are some big differences with what i am proposing. with TestFlight users must manually contact the developer, give them their Apple ID, wait for the developer to add them to TestFlight, be one of the first 1,000 people to do so, aaaaaaannnnnndddddd inexplicably WAIT A WEEK for the TEST version of the app to be approved for BETA TESTING!  LOL :P

okay, back to waiting. :)  :)