The App Store Crapshoot Strikes Again

Apple’s notorious App Store approval process has claimed its latest victim, this time for a ‘Refresh’ button gone mad. Except it hasn’t. So nobody is really sure why it got rejected.

The button in question belongs to an application called Read It Later, a bookmarking app that makes it easy to save interesting websites you stumble across for when you have time to read through them (it’s similar to Instapaper, which incidentally has also had App Store troubles of its own). Read It Later has been available on the App Store for over a month, and developer Nathan Weiner recently submitted a new update that included some speed and feature enhancements.

But for some reason, Apple has rejected the latest update for using a button that it has deemed to be misleading:

“The refresh button is to be used to Refresh contents. Implementing standard buttons to perform other tasks will lead to user confusion. We recommend using a custom icon.”

Apparently someone at Apple has unlocked a hidden function for the button (or perhaps they hit the wrong one), because Weiner doesn’t know what they’re talking about. In fact, the application has been accepted twice before while using the exact same icon.

From the Read It Later blog:

The icon in question however, does exactly that, it refreshes. When the user taps the icon, it refreshes the users reading list. This same icon is used by many apps that do similar functions, including rss readers, and other offline readers. Additionally, this icon has been used by the app since version 1.0 and version 1.1 and was accepted without question.

Now, I can see why the tester may have been a little confused – the refresh button syncs any updated pages to your phone, and the first time you press it the app displays a popup telling you how it works. But as Weiner points out, there are countless apps that use a ‘Refresh’ button for the exact same kind of syncing functionality. So what gives?

You may have noticed a trend here: we like to point out when Apple’s App Store approval process screws up. Not because we think the people at Apple are incompetent – on the contrary, they do an admirable job given the huge volume of application submissions they have to deal with. But the approval process is stopping some legitimate applications from getting through, and it isn’t stopping all of the distasteful applications, which sort of defeats the point. It’s clear that things need to change, especially since these problems are only going to become more common as the store continues to grow in size.