A new kind of App Store rejection is making the rounds in the iPhone World. It's not about violating the SDK. It's not about objectionable content. It's about Apple empowering its reviewers to reject software without providing any substantive reason or feedback. TUAW reader Kenneth Ballenegger received the following rejection notice for his iLaugh application.
This kind of rejection is a gamechanger. Devs have complained that Apple's review policies to date have been inconsistent and arbitrary, since it was relatively easy to compare rejections and demonstrate the multiple standards in play. This rejection shields Apple's internal processes even further. Instead of moving towards transparency and responding to developer concerns, Apple has pointed itself in the opposite direction.
Making this rejection sting more, the app already was in the App Store; this submission was a bug-fix update. The premium edition of the same app, submitted at the same time, was approved without issue. It seems that previous and current approvals for the same application would argue in favor of letting this version through, or at a minimum providing an explanation of what's wrong with this one. As Christina posted yesterday, developers aren't getting straight answers about App Store rejections, even at WWDC.
"Sole discretion" hides a lot of possible review errors, both subjective and accidental. It makes it harder than ever for smaller companies to appeal rejections and denies them a factual basis on which to evaluate whether their rejection was issued in error. It also gives a firm answer to those who have been hoping for a transparent ticketing system and a open appeal process. Apple isn't interested; it's their store, their rules, and Caveat Developer to anyone whose business plan depends solely on Apple's beneficence.
An app full of admittedly lame jokes might be an appropriate candidate for App Store rejection, but the combination of veto power, the opaque review/appeal process, and inconsistent and capricious application of Apple's ax adds up to a troublesome situation in the developer ecosystem and in the App Store.
Postscript: Kenneth writes in to clarify that the 1.1.1 bug-fix update submitted 3 months ago was rejected. This will not affect his 2.0 Lite version, which was just submitted.