When people develop applications for sale, submitting those apps to the Apple App Store for review (and, hopefully, approval) may present a few surprises. If you're like most developers, you hope that the whole process will go smoothly and quickly, so you can get your app posted right away. Developers with cross-platform apps already know how easy it is to post an app in Google's Android Market, or on one of the many Android sites such as GetJar or at the Amazon Appstore for Android. Meanwhile, you've probably heard that it takes anywhere from two weeks to two months to get an app reviewed and approved for listing in the Apple App Store. Some very fortunate developers have had their apps reviewed and approved by Apple in a matter of days. But other developers have languished for months, going back and forth with Apple requesting and receiving clarifications or code updates to a particular app.
It's debatable whether Apple's review policies actually improve the quality of the apps offered in the App Store, but you don't have a choice if you want to sell your apps via Apple's iTunes store. With all these thoughts in mind, I've compiled a short list of things you can do to reduce the review time you'll spend with Apple:
- Thoroughly read the App Store Review Guidelines before you start to code. The guidelines can help you to avoid pitfalls before they become part of your app. As a developer, you have access to this App Store "bible," which explains how you can steer clear of issues before they happen.
- Make sure that your app is really ready to submit. Some developers think that they can submit a partially completed app, just to get the app in the queue for review. It doesn't work that way. If you build an incomplete app and then go back and update the app, you'll lose your place. There's no "cutting back in line," so to speak; you go to the back of the queue again and start over. My recommendation is that you submit a high-quality and complete app that follows the App Store Review Guidelines.
- Thoroughly test In App Purchases before submitting. In order to have your app reviewed for In App Purchases, you must have that capability ready to download and purchase in your app. If Apple sees that you haven't uploaded that capability, your app will stay in the "pending" stage until that capability has been uploaded to iTunes Connect.
- Include Game Center and OpenFeint in your game app. If you're developing a game, you should probably include both these options in your app. Game Center is provided by Apple; it allows you to have leaderboards and other stats in your game. You can also use the Game Center icon for branding help on your app's logo. OpenFeint also has some useful features that aren't yet in Game Center. Even if you don't enable both Game Center and OpenFeint in your app, at least you have them coded into your app and can activate them in future builds if needed.
- Install analytics in your app. Analytics from Tapjoy, Flurry, or others are easy to install into your app. You basically download a little code and insert it into your app. Having analytics will help you even during the review process: If Apple is testing your app, you'll be able to tell on which days, and how many sessions are open. While you wait for approval, at least you'll know when your code is being tested. Once the app is approved, analytics will provide you with valuable usage stats.
Following these tips will help you to get through the review process with Apple more easily. Of course, designing and writing a great app that is thoroughly tested is your best insurance for quick approval.