Saying goodbye to App Review Times

You probably ended up here because you followed a link from the App Review Times site. As you will have read, unfortunately the site is no longer tracking crowdsourced data on how long it takes for an app to be reviewed. If you’re still looking for the answer to this question, it takes about a day. It’s been taking about that long since mid-2016 and review times have been very stable since then.

Why did the site shut down? I’ll get to that, but let’s start with a little history.

When the App Store launched in 2008 the concept of apps being reviewed by humans before being listed for sale was quite alien to most developers. As you’ll remember, the App Store was more popular than anyone could have expected and huge numbers of apps ended up being submitted to Apple every day. This meant the review process started taking longer and longer as apps queued for their turn with a reviewer.

If you are fairly new to iOS or Mac development then you may not be aware of the early days of the App Store. It was quite normal app for reviews to take 7-10 days, followed by the same time again if a rejection caused you to need to re-submit your app. It didn’t matter if the release was a minor bug fix, or a major new version with new functionality, they all went in the same queue. It was a pain if you were shipping your own apps and it also made setting expectations for your clients really hard. Even worse than the amount of time a review took was the variability of it. Was this review going to take 5 days, or 20? If it was consistent you could at least plan, but it wasn’t. It made it really hard to build a business around the App Store.

So, in early 2011 I created a site which crowdsourced App Store review time data from Twitter. I encouraged people to tweet using the #iosreviewtime or #macreviewtime hashtags every time they had an app reviewed and then averaged the recent data. The idea took off and quickly the site became extremely popular receiving millions of visits every year.

Of course, there are always exceptions in the review process and any apps that legitimately required extra time in review would skew the data, but by using a truncated mean, and with more good data coming in than bad the averages turned out to be really accurate. This actually led many people to send me email if their app review took even a day more than the current average. I actually had a snippet of text that explained how averages worked which I had to use more often than you might hope. 😂

Unfortunately over the years the site was not trivial to maintain. It received repeated and consistent attacks from people trying to manipulate the review time higher than it really was. I honestly never understood what people gained from doing this but it must have been entertaining to them as it happened over and over again. No good deed goes unpunished eh? 🤷‍♂️ That isn’t why I’m shutting it down though, something else happened…

In 2016 Phil Schiller took over the App Store group inside Apple and pretty quickly review times reduced from weeks to “about a day” across all of the stores and review times have now been consistent for about three years. In my mind this problem is totally solved.

Actually, I’d say that at this point my site is causing more harm than good and that is why I have shut it down today. Naturally, as the problem has gone away less people are tweeting their times, meaning that the crowdsourced data is no longer representative of reality. Also, people who do tweet about it are far more likely to be special cases where the review is more involved, and there’s not enough normal data to correct it anymore. If the average on my site spikes to 3 or 4 days, that’s not because it’s actually spiking.

I considered the future of the site in early 2018 but people managed to persuade me that it was still useful. Yes, there’s an argument that we should still watch Apple to make sure that things don’t creep up again, but honestly, if that starts to happen there’s no reason someone couldn’t start up a similar site.

So, goodbye from App Review Times! I’d like to say thank you all so much for providing your data over the years and I hope it provided something useful back to you while it ran.

Do you want to make a comment? Talk to me on Twitter instead.