On Apple's App Store New Review Features

January 25, 2017 08:53 EST • Alexandre Vallières-Lagacé • 3 minute read • Permalink

It all started with the basic details on The Loop, where Jim Dalrymple got the exclusivity on this new review process.

When you are prompted to leave a review, customers will stay inside the app, where the rating or review can be left for the developer. It’s easier for customers and the developers still get their reviews.

Apple is also limiting the amount of time developers can ask customers for reviews. Developers will only be able to bring up the review dialog three times a year. If a customer has rated the app, they will not be prompted again. If a customer has dismissed the review prompt three times, they will not be asked to review the app for another year.

Customers will also have a master switch that will turn off the notifications for app reviews from all developers, if they wish to do that.

And then, John Gruber got a couple of answers to his questions. Namely that developers replies and original reviews will be editable, but no more replies can be added. It’s not a threaded discussion, it’s a (editable) one thing deal.

Soon the Apple way to handle this will be the only way to ask and give reviews, but Apple does not have a timeframe for enforcing the feature. Apple is still working on how to handle resetting App Store reviews when you update your app.

When I launched Consom Net, I had this problem to where a major release got good traction and > 4 stars, but a single bug made me push a .0.1 release and loose all these great stars.

Versionning and Reviews

There is no easy way out of this as conflicting scenarios are problematic to handle and this is probably why Apple did not specify the details yet.

Let’s say you have version 2.0 out and get a major bug, you release 2.0.1 to fix it and you do want your bad reviews to go away. That would be the best since you did address the problem. However, if you are on version 2.3 and release a major redesigned 3.0 you do not want to lose your ratings as they are potentially good. And finally, you release version 3.1 with some new features and since you had 3 stars with the 3.0 release, you might want your score to benefit from this new solid release and would like your ratings to go away.

Apple could allow the developers to flag a release as “bugfix” and only then reset the ratings. Sadly, they can’t do this automatically as developers do not adhere to strict SEMVER rules. However, this could allow developers to game the system by resetting the review ratings when they please. You might say that they already do by releasing a dot-dot (0.0.1) update and you would be right.

I still think that granting developers a bit more power by signalling that this upcoming version should not reset the ratings as it’s a better version that should benefit from the traction and reputation, the previous version had.

Taking this and the new review replies features would really come a long way to help out developers that too often are being hurt by bad reviews and allow for a well-reviewed app to keep its hard-earned reviews, especially since we will soon only be able to ask 3 times per year for reviews.