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How Does the Apple App Process Work?

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Apple, AT&T, and Google handed in their answers to a government inquiry about the Google Voice app controversy on Friday, but AT&T and Apple also provided some interesting nuggets about their relationship and how Apple examines submitted apps.

Apple has taken some hits for its approval process. Last year, Apple dropped an NDA requirement that required developers to stay mum if their app was declined. Apple admitted the process was "too much of a burden on developers" and now allows them to state publicly that they have submitted an app, or been denied.

That's opened up the door to some controversy surrounding shaken baby apps. porn apps. and, of course, Google Voice apps .

Until Friday, however, Apple provided few details on how its approval process worked. Its FCC filing didn't exactly give the public an all-access pass to its review policies, but it did include a few interesting pieces of information.

Apple has more than 40 full-time reviewers, and each application is independently reviewed by two reviewers "so that the review process is applied uniformly," Apple said.

There is also an App Store executive review board that sets procedures and policies for the review process, and reviews the more controversial apps. The board meets every week and is comprised of senior management officials who deal with the App Store.

Apple claims that about 95 percent of submitted apps are approved within 14 days. The company gets about 8,500 applications and updates each week, and about 20 percent of them do not reach the App Store "as originally submitted," Apple said. In just over a year, Apple has reviewed more than 200,000 applications.

Reviewers are primarily looking for vulnerabilities like software bugs, instability on the iPhone platform, or the use of unauthorized protocols. "Apple generally spends most of the review period making sure that the applications function properly, and working with developers to fix quality issues and software bugs in applications," the company said.

Apple provided

a list of "representative" applications that it denied, including: Twittelator (it crashed during loading but was approved after the developers issued a fix); iLoveWiFi! (it used undocumented application protocols); Lingerie Fantasy Video Lite (initially had nudity but was fixed and approved for users over 17); and SlingPlayer Mobile (initially rejected because it used AT&T's cellular networks, but was approved when it was fixed to use only Wi-Fi).

AT&T was not involved in any of those cases, but the wireless provider also provided some insight into cases where it collaborated with Apple on the approval process.

AT&T and Apple discussed streaming audio applications from Pandora and AOL about potential network congestion, AT&T said in a separate filing. After they were put in the App Store, Apple upgraded the technology used to stream these services in order to further optimize usage on the network, according to AT&T.

The two companies also collaborated on an app from MobiTV and CBS that streamed live video and audio from the NCAA men's basketball tournament over Wi-Fi and 3G. AT&T had similar concerns about network congestion, especially customers accessing cell sites near colleges involved in the tournament.

Eventually, Apple talked to MobiTV and CBS, who agreed to put live video, audio, and scores over Wi-Fi, and live audio, still photos, and scores over AT&T's 3G network.

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AT&T, meanwhile, flagged a few additional apps with which it had a problem. One app pulled customer usage information from the AT&T MyWireless Web site and incorporated this information into the application. AT&T said it violated the company's terms of service, and the provider withdrew the application.

One last app allowed customers to send and receive texts from the iPhone, but when sending those messages to non-iPhone users, the app delivered multiple, truncated or garbled copies of the same message to the non-iPhone user – all of which counted against monthly bills. Apple contacted the developer, who modified the app.

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