Developers stymied by Mac App Store approval delays

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Some developers say that Apple is slowly getting worse at approving apps for the Mac App Store. Apple, of course, reviews all apps submitted to the store, just as it does with the iOS App Store; developers are thus at the company’s mercy when it comes to getting their apps—or updates to those apps—available to customers through the Mac App Store.

And if Apple’s slowing down, developers have little recourse: If you want to sell your apps in the Mac App Store, you play by Apple’s rules. That’s why developers implement sandboxing when Apple says they must—there are no other options. And that’s why many developers, along with some of their customers, are wary about the Mac App Store in general.

What’s causing the slowdown?

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.

In theory, though, the iOS approval rush should be over by now. While some developers are still updating their apps with iOS 6 and iPhone 5 compatibility, the days of endless update badges appearing on the App Store seem to be behind us for now. But for some Mac App Store developers, approval times haven’t yet shown signs of improvement.

The website Average App Store Review Times collects reports from developers who tweet about how long their apps spend in Apple’s approval queues. Based on nearly 70 reports, the site puts the average review time at 27 days for the past month, and the trend line shows that reviews are slowing down, not speeding up. (The same site reports the average iOS App Store review time at seven days.)

Developers confirm to Macworld that they’re waiting a while for their Mac App Store apps to get approved. Justin Williams of Second Gear Software submitted Committed 1.0 to the store on September 9; Apple didn’t approve the GitHub-monitoring app until October 5—that’s 26 days. Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater Software submitted an update to his blogging app MarsEdit 21 days ago, and he’s still waiting for approval. Christopher Liscio of SuperMegaUltraGroovy has similarly been waiting three weeks for his app Capo to get approved.

One developer who asked not to be named waited 28 days between submission and approval for an update to an app we’ve previously named as a Mac Gem. And Gus Mueller of Flying Meat tells Macworld that he’s been waiting on an approval for Acorn 3.5 for 22 days, and on Tuesday decided to release the update to direct customers without continuing to wait for the Mac App Store version to become available. Numerous other developers confirmed similar wait times to Macworld as well.

As Jalkut pointed out, even if Apple’s working to clear out the Mac App Store review queue, that might not be obvious yet. “I’m not sure how easy it will be to tell if things are speeding up, because so many people (presumably) are already in the queue at 20 or 30 days,” he wrote. “It may be the kind of thing that needs to see the queue flushed out to adequately gauge improvements.”

What Apple says

Jalkut may well be right. But Apple isn’t saying.

The notoriously tight-lipped company used to be more public—in its own, muted way—about review times for the iOS App Store. A page available to registered iOS developers indicated what percentage of new apps and app updates had been approved in the past X business days; that X fluctuated a bit.

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.

Apple declined to comment to Macworld on the record.

For now, there’s nothing anxious developers and their customers can do but wait.

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