Apple's director of App Review emailed me

June 4 2022 by Jeff Johnson

Last week I wrote a blog post about how my bug fix update was stuck in App Store review. Somehow my blog post came to the attention of Apple's senior director of App Review, Trystan Kosmynka, who sent me an unsolicited email about it later that day. I didn't actually realize until yesterday, when I saw a tweet from Kosta Eleftheriou, that the email was from Apple's senior director of App Review rather than someone lower level on the App Review team.

Hi Jeff,

Regarding: https://lapcatsoftware.com/articles/InReview.html

The app was delayed in the “in review” status as it was waiting for some static analysis to complete. The app has now been processed.

Regarding "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."

The bug fix submission process is very real. When the app update is submitted it goes through the regular review. In the event a reviewer finds an issue with the app, they will notify the developer. The top of that message indicates that if the issue is with a feature that is already live in the app the developer can elect to have the app processed and resolve the issue on a future submission. We’ve found that most developers prefer to fix the issues we find and resubmit, certainly there are cases however where it’s been helpful to have the option and the developer does choose to have the app approved and resolve on a future submission.

If there is any hang up in the future do not hesitate to file an expedite request

Thanks,
Trystan

I wrote a reply to the email, but I haven't received a response yet, and at this point I'm not expecting a response anymore, especially when everyone will be super busy with WWDC starting Monday.

Hi Trystan,

Thanks for writing!

Why did static analysis take 3 days, vastly longer than any previous review?

Jeff

I hesitated to publish Kosmynka's email for a number of reasons but ultimately decided that publishing was in the public interest, because the email contains information that App Store developers should know. And as you can see, the email doesn't reveal anything confidential or personal. (By the way, Kosmynka testified in the Epic trial about static analysis and other details of App Review.)

One reason I hesitated is that I don't want to participate in spreading Apple propaganda. Without further explanation from Apple, I find it hard to accept their static analysis story. It's still a mystery why this one instance of static analysis would take an unprecedented amount of time. My update that was stuck In Review was finally approved 9 hours after my previous blog post was published, and shortly before Kosmynka emailed me. In contrast, this week I submitted iOS App Store and Mac App Store updates for another app, and these updates only spent a short time "In Review": 2 hours for iOS, 20 minutes for Mac.

Before I end this blog post, I want to address Kosmynka's statement about the bug fix submission process. It's important to note that in my case, the review never found an issue with my update, and so I never received a notification of an issue. As I mentioned last week, "there's actually no way for a developer to contact the reviewer while the app is In Review." My bug fix release was delayed for days with no explanation whatsoever. Furthermore, Apple's process still delays bug fix updates even if "the developer does choose to have the app approved and resolve on a future submission." This is because the approval process is interrupted when App Review flags an issue with a preexisting feature in the app. In this case the developer receives an email, but it can take an indeterminate amount of time for the developer to see and respond to the email. What if the developer is away or asleep? (Remember that the "Waiting for Review" stage itself can take an indeterminate amount of time. I've had apps go into review in the middle of the night for my time zone.) And it's unclear whether App Review has to again manually take some action after the developer chooses to postpone addressing the issue raised by App Review; if so, then there's another delay of indeterminate time. This is why "most developers prefer to fix the issues we find and resubmit" is cold comfort to the developers with an urgent bug fix that they need to release to users as soon as possible.

Perhaps App Store Connect should allow developers to make this choice at the time they submit the update, rather than after App Review raises an issue with the update. If you're not an App Store developer, you have no idea how terrible the experience is for us. As I've said before, App Store Connect is the worst web site ever made.

Jeff Johnson (My apps, PayPal.Me)