Michael Yuan of the medical-focused mobile company Ringful Health has submitted over 30 applications to multiple mobile application stores. It's what made him qualified to give a speech at this week's SXSW conference in Austin, Texas on the topic. His panel, "Tips on Getting Your Approved on App Stores," wasn't so much of a step-by-step guide for navigating the submission process, but more like a collection of things developers would want to know about the major application marketplaces. It probably wasn't the best title, considering the content presented, but the information itself was helpful to developers looking to learn a few more details about the different app stores out there.

Due to time constraints, Yuan's talk only focused on three mobile app store ecosystems: iTunes, Android (both the official Market and third-party efforts) and BlackBerry App World.

Yuan began by explaining why it's important for mobile app developers to submit apps to an app store in the first place. App stores provide a wide reach, he explained, and offer easy one-click purchasing for customers, which can potentially lead to recurring billing scenarios. He then went through several of the top mobile app stores and the tips he picked up along the way:

BlackBerry

  • Yuan wasn't too pleased with his previous BlackBerry App World experiences because the registration fee only covers 10 submissions. Afterwards, you pay per update once that limit is exceeded. This seems to discourage updating apps, Yuan noted. Your best bet is not to count on releasing several incremental updates in this store.
  • One nice feature for developers submitting apps to BlackBerry AppWorld is that you can select the devices on which your apps will run. While obviously this is due to fragmentation issues in the BlackBerry ecosystem, at least they don't pretend that fragmentation doesn't exist, Yuan said.
  • The wait time in BlackBerry's app store is long - several weeks at least.
  • Developers should be prepared to give written statements whenever the slightest problem about third-party trademark issues arise.

iTunes

  • The wait time for getting your app approved at iTunes is 1-4 weeks, and the initial submission process goes much slower than future updates.
  • Generally, app updates are approved in just a few days.
  • However, if you submit too many updates in a short period of time, the approval process will slow down. Yuan did not specify what counts as "too many updates," however.
  • Despite media reports hyping Apple censorship issues, getting a rejection from Apple is good news, said Yuan. Not hearing back is much worse. Apple's rejection letter will at least explain what things need to be fixed within your application.
  • Be sure to read the interface guidelines from Apple, as it is very strict about these sorts of issues. For example, Apple will reject your app if your list item does not remove its highlight after the finger lifts off, said Yuan.
  • Apple will reject your app if there are obvious bugs.
  • Never use unpublished API methods.
  • Rate your app 12+ if you use UIWebView to load Internet pages at all.
  • Your app should contain no offensive content during "normal" use

3rd-Party Android Stores (GetJar, Handango, Carrier, etc.)

  • Yuan recommends that you talk with the business development people at the store if you can as they can often help you implement alternate revenue models or offer you promotional opportunities.
  • The on-deck Verizon VCast store has complex sign up, submission and approval process, Yuan warned.

Official Android Market

  • The Android Market provides a computerized validation of the binary and then immediate publication of that binary, says Yuan.
  • Unfortunately, unlike BlackBerry's store, you cannot pick and choose which devices your app is targeting. Instead, device visibility depends on OS version and API extension.
  • Users can try apps before they buy them.
  • Google can remote kill apps or wipe them from devices.

The tips here may be useful for developers now considering developing a second or third app for another store, but SXSW sessions are often just too short for there to be much detail. It would have been nice to hear more about real-world examples involving rejections, issues and fixes from Yuan. But SXSW is not really the venue for those sorts of in-depth discussions...except for those that occur in the hallways, that is.