The appraisal / approval process has become important as Apple increasingly appreciates the App Store as a source of income and security on the iPhone becoming an important aspect of attracting customers.
Besides, Apple's platform is also being closely monitored by politicians and managers are skeptical about the power of technology giants. In the US, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren thinks that Apple is competing with its own platforms. Spotify music service, competing with Apple Music, even filed a lawsuit against Apple on the European Union, accusing Apple of deliberately pressing to take advantage of Apple Music. Even long-time Apple developers are sometimes dissatisfied and argue that the App Review department is arbitrary and has long, confusing responses.
According to CNBC, the executive team of the App Review team, run by senior vice president of marketing, Phil Schiller, meets once a week to discuss controversial applications or other software programs for iPhone. may violate the App Store guidelines.
The "Review Council", or ERB for short, creates a policy way for Apple's Global Developer Relations department, often called the App Review. ERB is also the agency that makes the final decision on whether an application can continue to circulate on the App Store or will be banned / removed.
For example, ERB and Schiller decided last year to remove the Infowars application from the App Store because posting content could put reporters in danger, violating Apple's content policy.
In the App Review group, Apple employees manually screen all iPhone applications before they are released for users to download. Apple recently opened a new App Review office in Cork, Ireland and Shanghai. In recent years, this department recruited a lot of personnel.
The level of transparency in the censorship process this year has also improved compared to previous years. Recently, Apple has launched a new website, explaining the principles of App Store dominance, as well as common reasons why applications are denied.
"We are proud of the app store we created and how we built it", Apple wrote. "We created the App Store with two main purposes: First, it must be a safe and reliable place for users to discover and download applications and secondly it is a great business opportunity for all. Developers".
Apple declined to comment on the app review / censorship process but with the help of an anonymous internal source the CNBC page has captured and described this process in detail. Invite you to find out:
How does Apple evaluate / censor applications?
To be distributed to the App Store, any application or application update running on the iPhone requires the approval of an Apple employee. Although there is an automated system, Aple still relies on manual approval.
While Facebook, YouTube and other technology giants in Silicon Valley hire external partners for content censorship, Apple directly manages the department. App reviewers work directly for Apple, they are paid by the hour, wear Apple employee cards and enjoy privileges like health care services. Everyone starts with evaluating iPhone applications and then highly qualified people will be trained to evaluate applications with internal payment mechanisms, subscriber applications, applications for Apple Watch and Apple TV …
This department has more than 300 experts assessing and working at the office in Sunnyvale, California, not at the new Apple Park headquarters or the old headquarters in Infinity Loop. Many reviewers are fluent in other languages besides English and some specialized language groups. Apple said its reviewers are fluent in 81 different languages.
For many years, App Review is run by the marketing department. Although responsible for making the final decisions through ERB, the reviewers said that Phil Schiller rarely went to the office where appraisal / censorship took place.
The day-to-day work at these offices is primarily managed by vice president Ron Okamoto and another Apple executive. The director joined Apple in 2015 after the "Apple App" acquired TestFlight and asked for anonymity for security reasons. App reviewers say that sometimes they get feedback that contains threats from developers.
The App Review group was established shortly after the App Store launched in 2008. The two goals that Apple set for this division, according to what submitted to the FCC in 2009 and the new website that was launched earlier this year Now, is creating a store where customers can be confident that the app is safe and provides a level playing field for developers to reach customers. However, in return for developers will have to divide 15% to 30% of revenue for Apple.
Accept, refuse or keep
The staff evaluated receiving a range of applications through a web portal on a Mac called the App Claim. They regularly check apps on an iPad even if it's an iPhone app. In addition, there are areas for app evaluation for Apple Watch and Apple TV. Some developers were surprised to see screenshots of their iPhone apps being evaluated on the iPad when talking to the App Review department.
The evaluator will compare applications with the App Store's public rules, including conducting tests to ensure the application runs smoothly and contains no illegal content. After that, they will make a decision to accept, reject or keep the application. Most reviewers spend only a few minutes for each application, but many applications are very simple, so they only need to be evaluated for a short time.
The employees' daily quota evaluates from 50 to 100 applications and the number of applications they approve in an hour will be monitored by software called Watchtower. In addition, the qualification of the assessors is also assessed by the higher level of whether their decisions are reversed and other quality-related indicators.
Insiders shared that their working day may be longer than usual, especially before Apple releases a new version of iOS each year. At that time, almost every developer released an app update to be compatible with the new iOS.
SLA is a closely monitored index at App Review, which is an indicator of application approval performance. Apple targets 50% of applications to be reviewed within 24 to 48 hours. But when too many applications need to be updated, the SLA will drop to a pathetic level.
For example, on July 30 last year, SLA dropped to only 6%. "We will work 12 hours / 1 day until we catch the 50% SLA", an internal email from Apple. "If you can't work 12 hours, please report it."
Apple app reviewers do not often encounter horrible or illegal content. However, one said he once found pedophile content in a pending application. Of course, this application was not approved and the case was notified to the FBI.
The biggest concern of app reviewers is that developers may be angry when their livelihoods are threatened by the many days of censorship. Some employees wish they could share more details or help developers rather than long, confusing feedback they were forced to submit.
A reviewer said that sometimes they approved a valid application but the changes made on the developer's server turned it into a phishing application that violated Apple's guidelines. . In such times, assessors will be fined, even fired.
What happens when an application is rejected?
Apple claims an average of 40% of applications or updates are rejected. Most of them are approved after minor changes, but others make it difficult for the App Review department to make a final decision.
Developers who disagree with the App Review's decision may request a review by a council called the App Review Board. Such applications will be reviewed by highly qualified and less qualified reviewers. If continued dissatisfaction, the developer may request the application approved by ERB.
The majority of iPhone applications are rejected for common reasons such as fraud, error, or privacy infringement. According to sources familiar with the process, many rejected applications are linked to a Chinese gambling scam called "PK10" or other fraudulent acts.
Some other rejected applications fall into gray areas in Apple's policy or contain sensitive public issues. Such applications will be decided directly by ERB during their weekly meeting. Applications handled by ERB can sometimes jeopardize Apple's face.
One notable application handled by ERB last year was Inforwars. The application that provided these conspiracy theories was banned last year after posting videos that could endanger the press and reporters. The App Review team had an internal meeting after the decision to ban Inforwars was launched.
Apple employees will call developers directly if a decision is reversed after review and / or need to explain why the application / update was rejected. Apple said every week they make 1,000 calls to developers. Many developers, especially those whose App Review complaints draw public attention, will be called by a person named Bill. Bill is a longtime Apple employee and highly specialized but CNBC refused to disclose his identity for safety reasons.
Big companies like Spotify or Netflix also don't get special treatment. Despite their large scale, these companies are also adopting an application evaluation process and rules similar to other developers. For example, Bill called Spotify to announce that an update was denied because they were emailing customers to ask customers to pay directly to Spotify so that there was no commission for Apple.
Bill also makes calls regarding applications that help parents track their children. Developers of these applications have complained publicly about the feedback that the App Review department is spending on their apps.
In summary, at Apple, all applications are reviewed by Apple employees and the final decision, if needed, will be made by the senior vice president of Phil Schiler.
In 2016, a call to answer Bill's appeal was recorded by a dissatisfied developer. In the recording, Bill asked the developer: "Do you know Phil? Phil himself made this decision."