‘A Story About Hopscotch Going Through App Store Review’: Coding App CEO Lashes Out at Apple in a Twitter Thread

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Hopscotch, a coding app for kids on Apple's App Store, opened up about its recent frustrations over an update issue and persistent rejections from the company. The rejections were later found to be “a mistake” caused by a “glitch” in Apple's automated software. In a heated tweet thread, Hopscotch's CEO Samantha John vented out her frustration and anger at the tech giant. She mentioned that when her team submitted a bug fix update, the app got rejected because their “promoted in-app purchases had identical titles and descriptions which could be confusing to users”. Though all looked good to her, she changed the descriptions and resubmitted the app.

However, the app got rejected once again. John submitted an appeal to the company, noting that the rejection “made no sense”. Apple wrote back, saying that the rejection feedback was valid. John, then, tweeted a photo of the mail she received from the App Store.

John stated that they submitted a bug fix update to Hopscotch and “wanted to get it out quickly to get ahead of the school year”. But things went awry.

In subsequent tweets, she added about the rejection of the app, replying to the message, and resubmitted the app.

The app was rejected because "our promoted in-app purchases had identical titles and descriptions which could be confusing to users."

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

Makes sense as a guideline, except our titles and descriptions were different! Nonetheless, I changed the descriptions to be even *more* different than the titles. I replied to the message and resubmitted the app.

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

A day later, the app was rejected again. At this point, I didn't know what to do. I was in a Kafkaesque universe where I had to blindly guess at what could be wrong and randomly change things until the bureaucrats let me through (with a one-day delay).

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

She also emailed a contact that she had at Apple and explained the issue.

Luckily, I had a contact at Apple! I emailed them for help and carefully explained the issue. They told me to submit an appeal.

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

Then she got a reply from Apple that let them "release the bug fix" but told her that the "rejection was valid".

Here's the reply. They let us release the bug fix but told me that the rejection was valid and I would still need to update the app to comply with their guidelines. pic.twitter.com/4BhmUzXQVH

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

Three days after the original release date, John said she was “still in suspense as to what we did wrong”.

Now we were three days after the original release date and I was still in suspense as to what we did wrong. Throughout this time, Apple continued to send me emails reminding me that Hopscotch was not following their guidelines.

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

Over the next two tweets, she says that she “got a call from ‘Potential Spam' in San Jose California”, which she ignored, then an email from Apple arrived.

Today, I got a call from "Potential Spam" in San Jose California. I ignored the call, as one does with spammers.

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

But then I noticed that I had another email from Apple with the subject: Your app, Hopscotch-Programming for kids, does not follow the App Store Review Guidelines. pic.twitter.com/nyosSNPFjS

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

Realising that the spam caller was someone from App Review, John called them back. However, nobody answered. So, she left a voicemail, after which a representative from Apple called her back.

I told her as nicely as I could, that I did not know what the problem was. Our promoted in-app purchases had different titles and descriptions, contrary to the complaint from App Review. The purpose of the call was for her to tell me what I needed to change.

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

The representative, while looking through her case, realised that "the automated software must have had a glitch."

She paused for a moment while presumably looking at our case. Then said, "oh, I think the automated software must have had a glitch. It just got escalated to me, but I saw that your rejection was a mistake and wanted to call and tell you."

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

She had first called me at 3:14pm, I had received an email at 3:16 later telling me that Hopscotch was still out of compliance. Now it was almost 4pm. It seemed unlikely that she had figured this out before that very moment.

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

Though the issue was resolved after 3-4 days, John was furious. She said though the people she's met “at Apple are lovely and have been incredibly supportive of Hopscotch”, there's “something rotten in a system that treats developers in this way”.

The people I've met who work at Apple are lovely and have been incredibly supportive of Hopscotch. But there is something rotten in a system that treats developers in this way.

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

She went on to add that the process only “wasted my energy, gaslighted me, and sucked my time away made me furious”.

Hopscotch is a small company, I'm the CEO, AND I write code. And that's how a lot of the best apps work! My time is limited and precious to me. The way that Apple wasted my energy, gaslighted me, and sucked my time away made me furious.

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

She also mentioned how the App Store system was more optimised for reviewers than for developers, and vented out her frustration about the automated system that kept rejecting her app update without any human oversight.

I don't know what's worse: an automated system with zero human oversight continually telling me (falsely) that our app is out of compliance.

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 26, 2021

She later updated her thread, saying that Apple called her back to apologise for the inconvenience.

Update: to Apple's credit, they called me last night to apologize and ask for feedback. Who knows if they'll actually implement it, but at least they are listening. What would *you* change about the App Store review process?

— Samantha John (@SamJ0hn) August 27, 2021

They also asked her for feedback. She tweeted four suggestions and ended her thread saying that she'd “be happy to rate my experience from 1-10 every time our app was rejected”.

Have you faced a similar ordeal on Apple's App Store? Let us know in the comments section below.


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