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Kosta Eleftheriou
For the longest time, I've been afraid to speak up about my story with App Review, fearing I'd put my popular app at risk. I've now decided that being transparent and sharing my experience to help others is worth it, so here it goes:👇
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
App update rejections can be annoying and frustrating at times, but I appreciate and respect the review process - I believe that it mostly benefits end users. Even getting rejected for things that had previously been ok is something that I've grown to expect.
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
But this was different. In January 2019, I had not submitted an update for "FlickType" in over two months. Blind and visually impaired users were happily using my iOS and watch keyboard every day. Then, out of the blue, I got the message that made my heart drop:
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
⚡️"Upon re-evaluation, we found that your app is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines. [...] Specifically, the app is a keyboard for Apple Watch. For this reason, your app will be removed from sale on the App Store at this time."⚡️
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
This was not a rejection. This was not "please change this or we can't approve any updates". This was a sudden takedown, with no prior warning, and with practically no explanation. This *really* stung.
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
I kept reading their referenced "4.0 - Design" guideline, over and over again: "Apple customers place a high value on products that are simple, refined, innovative, and easy to use, and that’s what we want to see on the App Store."
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
While the exact definitions for simple, refined, innovative & easy can vary between people, my app was already getting a ton of praise including being named "Apple Watch App of the Year" by AppAdvice. I had worked *hard* to make it possible to type comfortably on a watch.
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
During another, earlier bout with App Review, I'd been told by Dev Relations via email (!) that "people [...] believe that App Review does not understand the value of the FlickType app, which is unfortunate and definitely not the case!". It was now pretty definitely the case.
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
Users kept asking me what happened, and when would the app be back again. I didn't know what to tell them. I felt betrayed. I've dealt with plenty of rejections & appeals in the past, but this time I felt so stunned that I decided not to do anything until I slept on it first.
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
When I emailed Dev Relations to inquire about why my app had suddenly been taken down, their response was: "Hi Kosta, the app has been returned to sale". When inquiring again about what happened or how to prevent this in the future, I got no response at all...🤷‍♂️
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
Months later, I was considering working on the next generation of the keyboard (a *big* undertaking). But I needed some clarity first, so I pinged DR again. Finally, I was told that "at least under current policies there is not a problem with what you’re doing". Great!
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
As the new keyboard was nearing completion, it was a dramatic improvement and I was super excited to launch it. I even made a free SDK for other developers to include in their watch apps, and the response was phenomenal. So I made a new "FlickType Notes" app and submitted it.🤞
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
But it wasn't meant to be. "Specifically, the app is a keyboard for Apple Watch" said the new rejection, something I thought was long behind me. Pushing for an answer on how one of my apps can have a watch keyboard, but the other cannot, they could only "discuss via phone".
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
Pushing further for *written* answers, I'm finally told the reason: "Your FlickType Keyboard app was found to be compliant [...] because it is intended to be used with VoiceOver. This app, FlickType Notes for Watch, does not appear to be intended to be used with VoiceOver." Huh?
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
One of the cornerstones of Apple design is to be maximally universal, not discriminatory of people’s abilities. As if the general "watch keyboards not allowed" ruling wasn't arbitrary enough, I was now being told that they *are* allowed, but for VoiceOver users only...
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
For additional reasons I can't share, I concluded that Apple had only reinstated my other app to avoid the negative response from the accessibility community. Watch keyboards were still not welcome, and my months-long effort had been in vain, despite getting earlier confirmation.
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
I appealed and even tried to improve the keyboard hoping the reviewers would find it good enough, but I kept getting rejected on the same grounds. People were using my new keyboard inside *other* watch apps via the SDK, but I couldn't publish my own app with it. I gave up.
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
Fast-forward to January this year. I decided to just bump the build version and resubmit the same "Notes" app. To my utter surprise, the app was approved an hour later. I then updated my main app with the new keyboard and got it approved as well. It was finally “go” time!🥳
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
Today, my app is a top paid and regularly featured app, for which I am very grateful to the editors. But getting it on the store has been one of the most difficult, non-technical obstacles I've had to overcome, and this was only one of *many* other hoops I've had to go through.
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
I may be patting myself on the back here, but I believe this is an unfortunate example of innovation being directly hindered for no good reason, although I cannot be sure about the motivations behind Apple's resistance to a watch keyboard on the App Store.
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 20
Replying to @keleftheriou
I've deeply admired Apple's approach to innovation and social impact for decades, but I can't help but think something's got to change, again (be it the guidelines, their enforcement, or other aspects of the review process). Improvement is a never-ending process, after all.✌️
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Kosta Eleftheriou Jun 26
Replying to @keleftheriou
One of the changes I'd like to see:
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