By most accounts, Apple’s App Store is pretty awesome. Introduced in 2008 with the iPhone 3G, the App Store allowed third party developers the chance to put their software in the hands of iPhone users. It spawned the famous “there’s an app for that” campaign, and made mobile software development a huge industry.
Of course, it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses. Apple has caught some serious flack over the App Store over the years, much of it from developers complaining that Apple was too secretive about what made an app acceptable. Though improvements have been made in recent years, the App Store approval process has often seemed arbitrary and confusing. The tendency has often been to assume that Apple has people at some office in India or somewhere similar, attributing the apparent lack of common sense in some App Store rejections (and approvals; anybody remember the Shaken Baby app?) to cultural or linguistic barriers.
It turns out, though, that that’s not the case at all. In fact, Apple’s app review team is a handful of people in an office in Cupertino who look through app submissions all day. According to Mike Lee, former Apple engineer, Apple is extremely picky about who it lets on the team. He told Business Insider that the team is drastically understaffed. The reviewers have to wade through an enormous number of submissions. That, he said, is why the occasional bad app slips through, or the occasional good app is rejected without any apparent reason.
He also said that these poor folks are forced to spend far more time looking at pictures of male genitalia than anybody ought to. According to Lee, the review team spends significant amounts of time “sitting there looking at things that may or may not be dicks all day long.” Lee went on to describe the problem in vivid terms. Which is to say that he was apparently going for some sort of record for using the word “dicks” the most time in a single paragraph:
It’s a very serious problem, trying to filter out things that no one is there to see. Somebody has to sit there and filter out all those dicks. You can’t let all those dicks get through. You have to err way on the side of safety. You have to have people sitting there looking at things that may or may not be dicks all day long. Apple refuses to farm stuff out to massive groups of people. They insist on having actual smart, educated, well-trained people doing the job. So that means they have to have some of their actual employees sifting through a pile of dicks. The only way to deal with it is to set the bar so far away from dicks so that even a picture of a cucumber gets blocked by accident. Because if you don’t, you have people spending hours and hours of conversation on whether something is a pubic hair. It’s a huge waste of time.
So, there you have it. The next time you find yourself getting frustrated with the App Store review process, it may help to take a few minutes and remember that the reviewer responsible for rejecting your app may just have been tired at the end of a long work day spent wading through pictures of other guys’ junk.