iOS app submission and beta review process

Useful preliminary tip!

Critical! news for 2019

As of February, there's a bug on the new iTunes connect. (Who would have thought?)

If your test flight build is stuck on "processing" (after, say, 5 minutes)...

In fact, simply log out of and log back in.

Amazingly, it will now be ...

This seems to work "often", perhaps even "all the time", if it's stuck for more than 5 mins.

I would say this problem happens about 3 times in ten.

Another point that is harder to demonstrate. Traditionally if a build was "stuck": if you increased the build number by one and just archived and sent it again. That seemed to flush forward the first one that was stuck. Unfortunately the "add one" trick seems to not work any more. If a build is "stuck" it seems to just stay "stuck".

News for 2018 !

Changes for 2018!

  1. Apple had the famous "utter disaster" of the end of 2017 / early 2018 where (basically) nothing worked for some weeks. It seems to have generally settled down as of Feb 2018.

  2. Change! Regarding the delay: "for betas (nothing to do with the app store), the delay you must experience, each time you have a new version number of your beta." That was usually quite short ("about one day"); now it is distinctly longer ("about two days"). They changed something.

(Note - don't forget that: also when you actually send a version to the App Store, that "forces" you to now have a new version number on the betas. So, if it's Monday morning and your launch team gets a new version approved (for the app store), and then it's Monday afternoon and you're about to send out a new beta build, in fact you now have to go up a version (and you will get the delay mentioned in the previous point).)

  1. Change! Regarding the delay: "for betas (nothing to do with the app store), the delay you must experience, each time you simply upload a new build (so, a higher build number) with no change to the version number." Basically this is now longer, but nor broken. It used to be that this usually happened almost instantly, and, sometimes it would take awhile (say 5-10 minutes), and finally sometimes it was completely broken (as described below). For 2018: they have changed it. It now always takes "5-10 minutes". (It never happens instantly.) And they do seem to have resolved the problem where it is sometimes broken and you have to try again: that seems to be history, fortunately.

  2. Change! Submissions to the actual app store. Simply, these are quicker now, in general. (Even if you have in app purchase - whatever.) Perhaps they improved their handling for testors, automated something, or whatever.

For mid 2016 (updated for 2018) ...

If I want to update an existing application on the store do I have to go through the review process again in full?

yes, definitely.

If I have my app approved for beta testing release through TestFlight, is this taken into consideration when submitting the app for review to the store?

No, for better or worse it is absolutely unrelated.

(Indeed: it's fairly common to submit straght to the store. To be clear, many companies simply never use TestFlight in any way. You don't have to if you don't want to.)

If I want to test a new build through TestFlight, do I need to go through the beta review process again in full?

Say you have an app HappyApp:

The first time you submit it for beta testing, there is a delay: usually of about two days.

That is while waiting for "beta approval". So that's "build 1" of your beta version of HappyApp on TestFlight.

Every FIRST TestFlight build, has - for sure - a delay of about two days:

(Note - this has changed in early 2018 from "about one day" to "about two days".)

This appears to be a human process. (Nobody knows for sure.) You can rely on this delay, it is never shorter. This is exactly what a beta looks like during that one-day delay:

So you have to wait about two days for the first review of a given beta version number.

On to the next step. So, for builds 2, 3, 4, 5 .. of HappyApp on TestFlight:

When you submit each new build, there is a delay of 5-10 minutes for each of those new builds to go through.

All beta builds after the first, have a 5-10 minute delay.
  • as of early 2018, that delay is reliably 5-10 minutes
  • in the old days, sometimes it happened instantly: this is no longer the case. It is now always 5-10 minutes
  • in the old days, often it would "just break" at this stage. They do appear to have finally fixed this problem, after three years of developers complaining. There was a large section in this post dealing with the issue, any history buffs can find it in the edits!

If an app is approved on the app store, does it automatically pass the beta review?

Stupidly, no. You have to completely start again.

So TBC. Say you're on version 4 of your app. You're going along making beta builds every few hours for your team. Build number 3010, 3011, 3012, etc. As it happens, you submit a real build to the app store and get the next version of the app approved - so that will be version 5 in the app store. Simply then - on the beta side - you are then forced to change to a new version number. (And thus as it explains above, you then will the suffer the "two day delay" on the next beta you send in, because, it is indeed the first beta of a new version number.)

A commentor wrote...

(All of this sounds counterintuitive...

Everything about Apple's approval process is silly. Leave your common sense at the door! :/

Updated for Feb 2018 !

Footnote! Apple previously had an annoying problem where: with a brand-new app (brand new BundleID, etc) it would take about half an hour to simply appear in your list of apps on iTunesConnect. This was quite confusing. Fortunately this problem is now history.