Trying to Fix App Discovery
Over the past few months we’ve been working on a new app called AppFinder to help solve problems with app discovery on the App Store. We were inspired by The Broken App Store article posted by the creators of the successful Twindr app and decided to take a hiatus from our work on the StartupApp.info service to make AppFinder in under a month.
We thought it would be interesting to build an app using the swipe concept to help you find apps similar to those that you and your friends and family like. Once we had the idea we got started writing the app and had the first version ready in under a week. You’ll soon learn that this was the easy part!
We were ready to get our app into the hands of beta testers and we submit our first release to Test Flight so that beta testers could download the app. After submitting to Test Flight we immediately posted AppFinder on the Beta List site (highly recommended for any startup) and got great interest and plenty of beta testers lined up to try AppFinder and help us work out the kinks before releasing the app to the general public.
As you can imagine we were very excited - people were interested in AppFinder and we finished the first version of development. All we needed was Apple’s approval of our Test Flight version and we could start letting others try the app and discover apps in a new way.
Test Flight Rejection
A day after submitting the app we expectedly got an email from the Apple Review team. Surely we thought this was the general email stating that our build was approved for testing but we were wrong. Apple’s review team rejected our app due to app review guideline 2.26 which states:
Apps may display and recommend apps other than your own only if the collection is designed for a specific approved need (e.g. health management, aviation, accessibility, etc.) or provides significant added value for a specific group of customers, or they will be rejected
This was a surprise to us because we felt the new user experience and the social aspect of app recommendations from friends and family was enough to separate AppFinder from the traditional App Store - but Apple disagreed.
We brainstormed ideas to add to AppFinder that would provide different functionality from the App Store while still keeping the core concept of simplicity in AppFinder. We decided to add a feature that would let you load a screenshot of your iPhone home screen and AppFinder would attempt to auto-discover apps that you have installed so you can easily recommend them.
After a week’s worth of development effort we had a new version ready to go and we submit it to Apple’s Test Flight team for review. Once again we were excited to move forward but nervous about the review process. About a day later we were pleased to see that Apple approved our new version for beta testing. We were off and running and clearly Apple approved of our updates and we would have smooth sailing from now on.
Now that we were approved for Test Flight distribution by Apple we were able to let our interested early adopters know that we were ready for them to start using AppFinder. We reached out to those who gave us their email address and invited them to download the app in Test Flight.
Over the next two weeks we used the great feedback from our testers to refine the app to make it much better than our first version. During this time we submit five new updates to Apple’s review team and all were approved in Test Flight. We added features that made the app more simple to use and would provide a much better product when we released AppFinder to the general public.
We were finally comfortable that we had a finished version 1.0 app that we could release to the App Store and start changing the way apps are discovered. We submit the app for final approval from Apple and figured it would get approved without any problems since we had already resolved our initial Test Flight rejection issue. We were wrong.
App Store Rejection
After submitting the final version of AppFinder to Apple for review we were expecting to hear a response within the next week and have AppFinder available on the App Store in a few days. We heard a response from Apple in about a week and we were surprised to see that AppFinder was rejected and the reason was guideline 2.26 once again. This was the same reason that we were originally rejected for during our initial Test Flight release.
To say that this was surprising would be an understatement. About a month ago we had thought we had moved past this issue and we invested our time and resources in continuing the project while pausing other projects we had in flight. Now we were told that our app would not be approved for the App Store for a reason we had previously overcome.
At this point we do not plan on making additional updates to AppFinder to try to gain approval from Apple. The simplicity of AppFinder is its differentiator and we do not want to add unnecessary features to the app to attempt to get it in the App Store.
Our beta testers were amazing and provided awesome feedback. In the few weeks of testing we had over 5,500 app votes made using AppFinder. We’re disappointed for those of you that were as excited about AppFinder as we were.
It’s widely known and acknowledged that app discovery is still broken and with app review policies like those that stopped AppFinder from seeing the light of day app discovery innovation will continue to be stifled. App rejection is a reality that all app developers must be aware of and we are no different. Even though we didn’t have the most favorable outcome in this case we will continue to develop apps for iOS because that is what we are passionate about.
We will be focusing our efforts on StartupApp.info now to help app developers like us more efficiently and effectively conduct market research on their app ideas. We think that there is a great opportunity here to help developers like us focus on the projects that can be the most successful in the long run.
If you have any ideas or suggestions on what we should do with the AppFinder project we’d be happy to hear them on Twitter @716labs. If you have any other questions about the app or the process we’re open to sharing them as well. Thanks for reading!