MacOS App Store – Submit / Review / Reject / Repeat?

Let me start with: I like Apple, the company and its products. As a developer, I like the MacOS App Store and I appreciate Apple reviewing apps to ensure high quality as well as security. Hence I’m cool with app sandboxing even though that makes developing utilities pretty challenging. I get all that. But my experience with the reviewers has been “varied” – to say the least. One particulay case makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up:

app store screenshot with crazy faceIn 2014, I created a utility app that required a certain level of file access. I went through several rounds of submit / reject / re-submit / re-reject / etc. At one point, I actually got a phone call from a friendly Apple App Store reviewer. He wasn’t allowed to provide me with a solution, but he did strongly “hint” at what I was to do to make it through the review process. I did exactly that – and got rejected again. So I gave up.

Just now, 1.5 years later, I said “what the hell” and rewrote the very same app in Swift – just for fun – simplifying some of the functionality while adding a simple Downloads folder entitlement. And I got rejected again with somewhat cryptic (and to some extent nonsensical) comments, which reminded me of my first experience. When I replied and asked for clarification, they responsponded and suggested I approach it just like I had done in my first rejected Objective C version. Fine, so I basically implemented the exact functionalty of the old version, almost line by line. The resulting app did everything exactly like the old app, same logic, same flow, same UI, same approach to sandboxing. I re-submitted – and it got approved!!!

What am I supposed to make of that?! I know the Apple reviewers are human and make mistakes or at least have different views. Either way, it’s pretty ironic that the very same app that was repeatedly rejected now got approved. Are the guidelines that much open to interpretation?! Again, I’m all good with Apple reviewing submitted apps and everyting, but please don’t make it SO hard, Apple! Don’t make your developers waste so much of their lives trying to make it through the review process…!