With well over 1.5bn downloads in the last year year, Apple's App Store is big business. It's also been dogged by controversy, but Apple has appeased the opprobrium appertaining to app approval, with appraisers apportioning approbation to appropriate applications. In other words, Apple has answered questions posed by the FCC over the Google Voice furore, giving an insight into the approval process.
Apple runs what sounds like an app sweatshop, in which just 40 members of staff say yay or nay to 8,500 submissions every week. It's not just new apps, but updates to existing apps as well, and every submission is checked twice. Erica Ogg over at CNET News has done the maths and worked out that each app-appraiser gets on average six minutes with each submission, although it's then double-checked. It must be galling for developers who've slaved away over an app to learn that their weeks or months of hard work is given just 12 minutes of attention.
Each submission has to pass technical considerations such as not crashing, moral concerns such as not corrupting the kids, and business criteria such as not using unauthorised APIs and not violating AT&T's terms of service. The get-out clause for Apple is that it reserves the right to reject anything that "degrades the core experience of the iPhone", whatever that means. Exactly how these factors are weighed up in six minutes is beyond us.
Exactly what Apple has hoped to gain with the level of secrecy shrouding the process is likewise mystifying. Controversy and frustration surrounding app approval has put a serious dent in Apple's cool 'n' quirky brand image. Until now, the only public discussion of the subject by Apple came from marketing VP Phil Schiller, in defence of the frankly ridiculous decision to reject a dictionary app because it allowed users to read some rude words. Lawks-a-lordy!
Apple App Store approval-monkey joins the list of jobs we wouldn't want, along with being Steve Jobs' personal shopper, gluing Swarovski crystals on otherwise perfectly serviceable gadgets, and keeping track of the Windows 7 pricing debacle. Oh wait, we have to do that last one.