My bug fix update is stuck in App Store review

May 27 2022 by Jeff Johnson

Timeline summary:

Tuesday 5:39pm: Tweaks for Twitter Mobile update submitted
Tuesday 5:43pm: Tweaks for Twitter Mac update submitted
Wednesday 4:29am: Tweaks for Twitter Mac update "In Review"
Wednesday 7:56am: Tweaks for Twitter Mac update "Pending Developer Release"
Wednesday 12:32pm: Tweaks for Twitter Mobile update "In Review"
Thursday 12:44pm: Requested status update from Apple Developer Support
Friday 4:57am: Received status update email from Apple Developer Support
Friday 8:30am (now): Tweaks for Twitter Mobile update still "In Review"

On Tuesday I submitted a minor bug fix update of my app Tweaks for Twitter to the iOS App Store and Mac App Store. (If you want to know why I have separate iOS and Mac versions, you can read my previous blog post On App Store pricing inflexibility.) The bug fixes in the two versions were identical and small: only 5 lines of source code were changed. For those who are not familiar with App Store review, there are two stages: Waiting for Review and In Review. When you submit an update, the app immediately goes into the Waiting for Review stage, which is typically the longer of the two stages. Waiting for Review just means that your app is waiting in the queue for a reviewer to look at it. When a reviewer starts to look at the app, it enters the stage In Review. At the end of review, the app is either rejected or accepted. (The stage Pending Developer Release means that it's been accepted, and the developer can release the update in the App Store whenever they want.) My Mac App Store update spent 3.5 hours In Review and is now Pending Developer Release. My identical iOS App Store update has been In Review over 44 hours and counting.

Again for those who are not familiar with App Store review, there's actually no way for a developer to contact the reviewer while the app is In Review. You can contact the reviewer in App Store Connect after your app has been rejected, but not before it's been rejected. You can contact the App Review Team to get a status update, which I did, but this is largely pointless, because you only get a totally uninformative canned response form letter:

Thank you for contacting App Store Review about your app’s status.

Your app, "Tweaks for Twitter Mobile," is in review as of May 27.

You can find more information about the app review process on the App Review Support page.

On average, 90 percent of apps are reviewed within 48 hours. However, there may be cases that require additional review time. You do not need to do anything at this time. If we require any additional information, we will notify you directly.

When your app’s review is complete, you will be notified by email.

In my 5 years as an indie developer in the App Store, I've submitted over 200 app updates, and before now the longest that an update has ever spent In Review was 13.5 hours. Most app reviews have been much shorter than 13.5 hours, sometimes only a few minutes. So the current situation is unprecedented for me. Three aspects of this situation frustrate me. First, as always, the lack of communication from Apple. Their lack of communication with developers is a constant source of developer discontent with Apple. Second, the insane inconsistency of App Store review. In this case, my Mac App Store update was accepted in 3.5 hours, and my iOS App Store update is the same as my Mac App Store update, so what exactly is the problem? Third, Apple claimed that they wouldn't hold up bug fixes for unrelated issues:

for apps that are already on the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues. Developers will instead be able to address the issue in their next submission.

This claim does not appear to be true. I've heard from a number of other developers who have said that their bug fix updates still get held up over other issues.

Some people will say, "This is the first problem you've had in 5 years, so why are you complaining?" But that's not true. I've had many problems with App Store development over the years. It's the first time I've had this specific problem of being "In Review" indefinitely, but my overall experience with Apple development cannot be characterized as free of problems. Apple keeps "innovating" new and different problems to throw at its third-party developers.

Jeff Johnson (My apps, PayPal.Me)