Now that all of the letters to the FCC have been filed by Apple, AT&T and Google, we’re more carefully reading them over for interesting details. The Apple letter would seem to have the most interesting information, as it controls the App Store, and has given some new information about it. Here are some interesting tidbits.
On general app rejections:
We created an approval process that reviews every application submitted to Apple for the App Store in order to protect consumer privacy, safeguard children from inappropriate content, and avoid applications that degrade the core experience of the iPhone. Some types of content such as pornography are rejected outright from the App Store, while others such as graphic combat scenes in action games may be approved but with an appropriate age rating. Most rejections are based on bugs found in the applications. When there is an issue, we try to provide the developer with helpful feedback so they can modify the application in order for us to approve it.
On the app approval rate:
95% of applications are approved within 14 days of their submission.
On the Google Voice rejection:
Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it. The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone’s core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail.
Apple has a problem with Google Voice’s phone icon, voicemail functionality and SMS functionality:
Apple spent a lot of time and effort developing this distinct and innovative way to seamlessly deliver core functionality of the iPhone. For example, on an iPhone, the “Phone” icon that is always shown at the bottom of the Home Screen launches Apple’s mobile telephone application, providing access to Favorites, Recents, Contacts, a Keypad, and Visual Voicemail. The Google Voice application replaces Apple’s Visual Voicemail by routing calls through a separate Google Voice telephone number that stores any voicemail, preventing voicemail from being stored on the iPhone, i.e., disabling Apple’s Visual Voicemail. Similarly, SMS text messages are managed through the Google hub—replacing the iPhone’s text messaging feature.
Apple believes Google Contacts may be a security risk:
In addition, the iPhone user’s entire Contacts database is transferred to Google’s servers, and we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways. These factors present several new issues and questions to us that we are still pondering at this time.
On a Google Voice web app:
Google is of course free to provide Google Voice on the iPhone as a web application through Apple’s Safari browser, just as they do for desktop PCs, or to provide its “Google-branded” user experience on other phones, including Android-based phones, and let consumers make their choices.
On AT&T’s role in the Google Voice app rejection:
Apple is acting alone and has not consulted with AT&T about whether or not to approve the Google Voice application. No contractual conditions or non-contractual understandings with AT&T have been a factor in Apple’s decision-making process in this matter.
On Apple’s approval process with regards to its partners:
Apple alone makes the final decisions to approve or not approve iPhone applications.
But, Apple does reject apps on AT&T’s behalf that are VoIP or streaming video apps (like SlingBox):
There is a provision in Apple’s agreement with AT&T that obligates Apple not to include functionality in any Apple phone that enables a customer to use AT&T’s cellular network service to originate or terminate a VoIP session without obtaining AT&T’s permission. Apple honors this obligation, in addition to respecting AT&T’s customer Terms of Service, which, for example, prohibit an AT&T customer from using AT&T’s cellular service to redirect a TV signal to an iPhone. From time to time, AT&T has expressed concerns regarding network efficiency and potential network congestion associated with certain applications, and Apple takes such concerns into consideration.
But VoIP apps are okay over WiFi:
Apple has approved numerous standard VoIP applications (such as Skype, Nimbuzz and iCall) for use over WiFi, but not over AT&T’s 3G network.
A bit more on rejections:
Most rejections are based on the application containing quality issues or software bugs, while other rejections involve protecting consumer privacy, safeguarding children from inappropriate content, and avoiding applications that degrade the core experience of the iPhone.
On what takes up most of app reviewers time:
Given the volume and variety of technical issues, most of the review process is consumed with quality issues and software bugs, and providing feedback to developers so they can fix applications.
The number of App Store reviewers:
There are more than 40 full-time trained reviewers, and at least two different reviewers study each application so that the review process is applied uniformly.
Apple now has an App Store executive review board that meets once a week:
Apple also established an App Store executive review board that determines procedures and sets policy for the review process, as well as reviews applications that are escalated to the board because they raise new or complex issues. The review board meets weekly and is comprised of senior management with responsibilities for the App Store.
On the amount of applications that get submitted:
We receive about 8,500 new applications and updates every week, and roughly 20% of them are not approved as originally submitted. In little more than a year, we have reviewed more than 200,000 applications and updates.
All of this information sheds some light on the mystery that has been the App Store. As we’ve noted, the approval process has seemed to improve since Senior VP Phil Schiller got personally involved. It seems likely that he’s on or even leading this App Store executive review team, though Apple doesn’t say that.