iPhone devsugar: App Store approval in...one hour?

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iPhone devsugar: App Store approval in...one hour?
Approximately one hour after uploading his new application update to iTunes Connect, Bristol-based iPhone developer Rob Jonson of Hobbyist software got the surprise of his week: an official Apple green light. His latest update to his VLC Remote application had been approved and was ready for sale. VLC Remote allows you to control a Mac- or Windows-based VideoLAN playback client from your iPhone, basically duplicating many of the features you'd get from a standard Apple Remote.

His update wasn't complicated. "It was a simple problem," he told me over the phone this morning. "One of the buttons stopped working because of a stupid error. I missed a break in a case statement." So he uploaded his bugfix at about 11 PM local United Kingdom time.

Just before midnight, he checked his e-mail before heading off to bed. The Apple approval was sitting in his in-box. A recent update, submitted last week, had taken only a day to receive approval. "With 24 hours, I was very impressed. But one hour? I couldn't believe it. Clearly Apple has changed the game."

Update: This picture speaks a thousand words. Courtesy of Tom Harris of InsiderApps. This is a different app from Jonson's

"It's awesome," he said. "It makes me less scared to put out an update. " As Jonson explained, updates used to involve a two week process. During that time, you didn't "...want to do any more work until it [went] through. You [made] yourself do something else in the meantime" like switching to another project development, to allow time for Apple to finish processing the submission. "Now, I know I can have it sorted out very quickly, it's so much easier for me to improve my app."

He contrasted Apple's new response times with Palm's, which continues to introduce long delays between app submission and review. "If a user finds a bug, and I fix it, I have to send a request to cancel the update before I can submit a new update." This is similar to Apple's policy of developers self-rejecting an app submission, but takes more work. You must wait for the cancel request to process. "Palm hasn't got the update process sorted yet for its app store." With Apple, he can now submit his updates and know that they will be handled promptly.

For now, Apple's excellent turnaround time means two things. First, it's going to greatly improve the ability of developers to deliver bug updates in a timely manner, without being burdened by long delays that cause development downtime. Bug fixes will reach users sooner and the App Store ecosystem will improve as a consequence.

Second, it's going to speed the process of developer entry into the iPad arena. Shorter turn-around means that iPad-specific apps will start filling App Store shelves without the kind of months-long ramp up that was needed when iPhone apps first debuted. With just sixty days between iPad announcement and the first units expected to hit the shelves, Apple's rapid app review promises that developers can put their iPad goods in the hands of consumers nearly as soon as the iPad starts shipping.

Shorter review times are a great move on Apple's part and a win for all parties: developers, customers, and Apple.
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