App Store Connect Holiday slowdown

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

Dave Bell, Co-founder and CEO of Gummicube, advises developers to prepare now in order to avoid long review times for app submissions and updates to the App Store, in order to ensure their apps are live for the holidays.

For the first time, Apple’s Holiday Schedule will not include a full shutdown for 2021. As the holidays roll around, Apple typically gives its review team some time off during the competitive season to recharge and focus their attention on family and friends. In a change of events, Apple has announced that it will continue to review app submissions throughout the holiday season.

Historically, the shutdown always lasted for around one week, during which App Store Connect no longer accepted new apps or updates to existing apps. Even though this shutdown will not be happening this year, preparations still need to be made. Since a high volume of app submissions can be expected, developers should prepare now in order to avoid long review times and ensure that their apps are live for the holidays.

Planning ahead for the holidays
Although Apple’s review team will be working through the holidays, an increase in app submissions means that releases should be scheduled, submitted, and approved in advance. In the event that an app is submitted near the holidays, there is a chance that it can fall behind in the queue of apps that need to be reviewed. In the worst case scenario, the built-up backlog and influx of new approvals may mean that an approved release will not go live until the new year. This means that the app would miss out on leveraging its seasonality during a competitive time.

Ideally, developers should schedule their submissions to App Store Connect for review one week before the holidays. By doing so, Apple reviewers will have enough time to review the app and developers will also have some availability to make any necessary changes in the event of a rejection. Looking at Apple’s past schedule, the rule of thumb has always been to submit by 18 December. Despite the fact that a full shutdown is not planned for this year, developers should still target for a submission between 15 and 18 December.

The holiday gifting season means an increase in new devices and app offerings. In order to take advantage of this influx of potential users, developers typically rush to get their apps and updates live in time for the holidays. Following this pattern, app submissions are always better sooner rather than later.

Necessary preparations
Depending on what kind of update needs to go out, it is important to consider how long such reviews and potential revisions may take. In the case of a major update or bug fix, make sure to submit as early as possible. Especially for new apps, submissions should occur before the 15th. Additionally, if new features being introduced are more susceptible to rejection the first time, developers need to take that into consideration when creating a submission schedule.

Below is a list of criteria that run the risk of longer review times and possible rejections:

  • Multiple prior rejections
  • Features or assets that require proof of licensing permission/copyright ownership
  • Apps in highly-regulated fields, such as banking and financial services, healthcare, gambling, legal cannabis use, and air travel
  • Apps designed for children
  • Apps with gambling, lottery or sweepstakes features
  • Apps potentially subject to Apple’s “spam” guidelines, such as those in the Dating and Fortune Telling genre

Even if the above terms do not apply, brand new apps from new developers could still face a longer review time as they undergo the preliminary vetting process. Getting rejected would require going through a more tedious process of making necessary changes and noting them in the Resolution Center with an App Store Review representative. This would result in further delays for the app and the possibility of not going live before the holidays.

Developers have the responsibility of making sure that the review process is executed as seamlessly as possible. By reviewing Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines prior to submission, developers can ensure that any potential hiccups are avoided. This also includes making sure that apps are tested for performance issues in advance. Although this is something that is recommended with any app submission, it is especially important considering the time sensitivity of the holiday season.

Another important item to look out for is ensuring user satisfaction throughout the holidays. Removing familiar features or making big additions should either be scheduled well in advance or be postponed until the next year. If new features or mechanics are not well received, developers will have issues submitting changes to App Store Connect and receiving approval quickly. This could lead to negative app reviews and uninstalls.

Seasonal considerations
Those who have opted to make seasonal updates to their apps, such as holiday imagery and copy, should prepare for when they intend to revert their app back to normal. The best method would be to submit an app for review before the holidays and to select manual release or scheduled release. This would allow developers to choose when the new version of the app goes live after Apple has approved the changes.

Depending on preferences, some apps ideally revert back to normal the day after Christmas, while others may prefer to keep up the holiday spirit right through until the New Year. Regardless of which approach is most suitable for the app, any planned releases should be sure to include ASO best practices for the new year.

In summary, Apple’s annual Holiday Schedule will see some significant changes this year. However, developers still need to make sure that they are prepared for a slowed-down review process. Planning an end-of-year release strategy can help to guarantee that developers are ahead of the game when competing with the plethora of apps that need reviewing for the holiday season. Therefore, we recommend submitting new builds as soon as possible.

About the Author
Dave Bell is Co-founder and CEO of Gummicube. Gummicube is a global leader in App Store Optimization with more than 11 years of experience optimizing and marketing apps. We offer the leading enterprise ASO technology and agency services, providing support to clients around the world. Our company is trusted by thousands of enterprise brands and leading startups including Microsoft, LinkedIn, Bethesda, SWEAT, GrubHub, McAfee and many others.