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Apple App Store Approval Process Explained

Mobile applications are expanding exponentially, but whilst most app development still seems to be concentrated on iPhone development, the number of companies looking for iPad development is catching up fast. This uptake of new development is in spite of the stringent requirements for acceptance of apps within the Apple App Store. Apple has always had strict guidelines for any iOS development of apps in order to protect both the integrity of their devices but also to ensure the Apple platform remains a family orientated environment. It will help increase the chances of App acceptance if you take these guidelines into consideration early in your app development and planning stages.

Guidelines

As of June 6, 2011, more than 500,000 apps have been approved for the US App Store, the largest of all regional stores, from a little more than 88,000 publishers. This makes for some fierce competition and can result in a lengthy approval process. Apple is very protective of its reputation as a reliable and family oriented company afterall. To help implement a smoother application process, they have recently published App Store Review Guidelines for iOS apps. This document lists the requirements for the look and feel of the user interface, technological and functional operations, and acceptable categories. A thorough examination of the guidelines can help prevent wasted time in development for a project that Apple will refuse immediately.

Apple Developer Account

Once you have ensured that the feature-set will pass Apple’s review board, the next step in the process is to register as an Apple developer. The current cost of this is £59 ($99) and is required for each company wishing to submit apps to the App Store; this fee must be renewed annually. Included in the application fee is access to the many features of the iOS Dev Center where you will find videos, forums, documentation and even samples of code. This also gives you an iOS Simulator so that you can run iPhone and iPad applications locally on your Mac desktop machine for testing and debugging purposes. Joining this developer program also gives you the ability to test your applications on the devices themselves, a crucial step in the app development process. Whilst the simulator is good for a quick development / testing cycle, there is no substitute for on-device testing throughout the development process.

App Store Submission

When your application is fully tested and ready for publication, you will upload it to the App Store and submit it to the approval process. During the submission, you will also need to set its category, keywords, and the price band. The approval process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months. As of April of 2011, the average approval time was about a week, however the variable nature of this process needs to be accounted for in your expectations of app delivery times.

If your app is fully tested and meets Apple’s family oriented standards, approval should be simple. If, however, approval is denied, they will notify you of the problems by email and you will need to make necessary fixes and resubmit. Patience is required in most cases. With an average of more than 600 submissions per day during May of 2011, the reviewers are busy and new or upgraded devices can result in an avalanche of new apps all at once, slowing the process even more.

Pricing Your App

You will be required to use one of Apple’s listed price bands. There are currently 85 bands ranging from “free” to £599 ($999). Apple takes 30% of the selling price and pays you the balance through direct deposit once per month. You can increase your income if you enable Apple’s iAD network in your free apps. Apple sells and serves the ads and pays you up to 60% of the advertising revenue from your apps. Apple also allows “in-app purchases” which means you can offer a free app with additional features for sale to the customer after download.

App Store Updates

If you decide at some future date to update your app with extensive new features or to meet the requirements of new equipment, you will be required to submit the app for approval again. Apple is very particular about the merchandise offered for sale in their App Store. That is one reason their apps are so popular. If your app offers a real value to users and demonstrates technical excellence along with a creative and cool functionality, you may have a chance of having the iTunes editorial teams choose to highlight it and you could soon be an Apple App Store success story.