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Building your app is just the first step. Most people don’t know that Apple has to approve all apps for sale (or free). But what is the App Store approval process and how long does it take?

Mobile applications are expanding exponentially, but whilst most app development still seems to be concentrated on iPhone development, the number of companies looking for iPad development is catching up fast. This uptake of new development is in spite of the stringent requirements for acceptance of apps within the Apple App Store. Apple has always had strict guidelines for any iOS development of apps in order to protect both the integrity of their devices but also to ensure the Apple platform remains a family orientated environment. It will help increase the chances of App acceptance if you take these App Store approval process guidelines into consideration early in your app development and planning stages.

What are the guidelines for the Apple App approval process?

The rules and regulations

As of June 6, 2011, more than 500,000 apps have been approved for the US App Store, the largest of all regional stores, from a little more than 88,000 publishers. This makes for some fierce competition and can result in a lengthy app approval process. Apple is very protective of its reputation as a reliable and family oriented company after all. To help implement a smoother iOS app approval process, they have recently published App Store Review Guidelines for iOS apps. This document lists the requirements for the look and feel of the user interface, technological and functional operations, and acceptable categories. A thorough examination of the guidelines and an understanding of the App Store approval process can help prevent wasted time in development for a project that Apple will refuse immediately.

What is a developer account?

You don’t need to be a developer

Once you have ensured that the feature-set will pass Apple’s review board, the next step in the app approval process is to register as an Apple developer. The current cost of this is £59 ($99) and is required for each company wishing to submit apps to the App Store. Additionally, this fee must be renewed annually. Included in the application fee is access to the many features of the iOS Dev Center where you will find videos, forums, documentation, and even samples of code. This also gives you an iOS Simulator so that you can run iPhone and iPad applications locally on your Mac desktop machine for testing and debugging purposes. Joining this developer program also gives you the ability to test your applications on the devices themselves, a crucial step in the app development process. Whilst the simulator is good for a quick development / testing cycle, there is no substitute for on-device testing throughout the development process.

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What is the submission process for App Store approval?

Sending it for publishing

When your application is fully tested and ready for publication, you will upload it to the App Store and submit it to the Apple app review process for approval. During the submission, you will also need to set its category, keywords, and the price band. The App Store approval process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months. As of April of 2011, the average app approval time was about a week. However, the variable nature of this process needs to be accounted for in your expectations of app delivery times.

If your app is fully tested and meets Apple’s family-oriented standards, the iOS app approval process should be simple. If, however, approval is denied, they will notify you of the problems by email and you will need to make necessary fixes and resubmit. Patience is required in most cases. With an average of more than 600 submissions per day during May of 2011, the reviewers are busy and new or upgraded devices can result in an avalanche of new apps all at once, slowing the app approval process even more.

What about pricing?

How to price your app

You will be required to use one of Apple’s listed price bands. There are currently 85 bands ranging from “free” to £599 ($999). Apple takes 30% of the selling price and pays you the balance through direct deposit once per month. You can increase your mobile app revenue if you enable Apple’s iAD network in your free apps. Apple sells and serves the ads and pays you up to 60% of the advertising revenue from your apps. Apple also allows “in-app purchases” which means you can offer a free app with additional features for sale to the customer after download.

What about updates?

Keeping the content fresh

If you decide at some future date to update your app with extensive new features or to meet the requirements of new equipment, you will be required to go through the App Store approval process again. Apple is very particular about the merchandise offered for sale in their App Store. That is one reason their apps are so popular. If your app offers a real value to users and demonstrates technical excellence along with a creative and cool functionality, you may have a chance of having the iTunes editorial teams choose to highlight it and you could soon be an Apple App Store success story.

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