Apple, which has been the target of sharp criticism over its App Store policies and the power the company holds over developers, says it’s establishing a new process to hear the complaints of developers who disagree with its app-approval policies.
The tech giant, as part of its 2020 Worldwide Developers Conference, on Monday announced to two changes that it will roll out this summer for the app review process. First, Apple said, developers will “not only be able to appeal decisions about whether an app violates a given guideline of the App Store Review Guidelines, but will also have a mechanism to challenge the guideline itself.”
In a second change, Apple said, 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.” Instead, the company said, developers will “be able to address the issue in their next submission.”
How the new policies will be put into practice remains to be seen, but Apple is at least trying to show that it’s willing to hear out the complaints of disgruntled iOS developers.
Apple’s new policies come after the recent public spat over software developer Basecamp’s Hey, an email app that was at first OK’d by Apple but then repeatedly rejected. According to Apple, because Hey didn’t offer a way to sign up for its service within the app, it was not exempt from Apple’s rules requiring in-app purchases (which the developers didn’t want to enable, in order to avoid paying Apple the standard 30% cut). Basecamp subsequently modified the app to include a free signup option for a temporary email address.
“I really do hope Apple is serious about reform,” Basecamp CTO David Heinemeier tweeted Monday in response to the new policies. “There’s a path forward here where Apple goes back to being a friend of developers, not a big bully they’re all terrified of speaking out against.”
The dispute over the Hey app echoed the experience of other developers, including Spotify, which filed a formal complaint to the European Union in 2019 about Apple’s App Store practices. Last week, the EU opened an antitrust investigation into Apple’s App Store business practices, including its requirement that apps use the in-app purchasing system.
Meanwhile, Apple, in its WWDC20 announcement, said it’s seeking new ways to solicit feedback from developers. It will create “additional channels” for developers to share feedback during new developer forums that will occur throughout the coming year. “In these forums, developers are encouraged to share their suggestions, large and small, so that Apple may continue to implement changes and improve the App Store experience for the entire developer community,” the company said.
Also at WWDC20, Apple as expected provided details on the forthcoming iOS 14 operating system, which among other features will let users pick third-party email and browser apps as the default instead of Apple’s own versions, and confirmed that it is shifting away from Intel processors for Macs to use its own internally designed chips.