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Devs slam lack of notice ahead of Apple's App Store screenshot clampdown

Devs slam lack of notice ahead of Apple's App Store screenshot clampdown
Apple's decision to remove the ability for developers to alter screenshots once an App Store title has been approved may be new, but the way it's handled the rule change is not.

The move effectively means screenshots are locked in until the app itself is updated, with Apple looking to ensure consumers aren't duped into downloading rogue releases based on bogus screenshots.

As with all rule changes enforced by Apple, however, no notice was given to developers before it was adopted. Studios that look to refresh their app's page in between updates are now out of luck - and they weren't even warned.

Based on the feedback we've received, the lack of notice is that the main issue developers have with the rule change.

Apple's efforts to protect the consumer are to be applauded, but now legitimate developers are effectively being penalised because of the somewhat dubious activities of the few.

Here's the feedback we've garnered so far. Check back for future updates:

Aaron Ludlow, AppyNation

In theory, anything which reduces the chance for scammers 'gaming' the app store by pretending their game is something is not is a good thing.

However, all this will do will harm devs who legitimately update screenshots on a regular basis for various reasons.

There are other effective reporting mechanisms Apple could use instead of harming the majority because of the minority.

Kevin Ng, Pixels on Toast

It's a shame that this change removes an opportunity for us to iterate on our App Store presence.

Many of us developers submit placeholder screenshots for app review, and then use the time spent in review to produce the high quality screenshots that we need to help our apps stand out.

It's not uncommon for us developers to continue to iterate on our App Store presence post release.

On the flip side, I can definitely understand Apple wanting to prevent unscrupulous behaviour, and measures to reduce this could help level the playing field for legitimate developers.

I do have an issue with how changes like this are handled.

The notice for developers, hidden away in a corner of Apple's Developer website, slightly brings to mind the plans for Arthur Dent's house being demolished having been available in the local planning office for the last few months, hidden away in a locked cabinet in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "beware the leopard".

An e-mailed notice, sent well ahead of time, would have given us the opportunity to make plans around these changes.

Jon Wetherall, Onteca

I think the App Store was the only one of the mediated marketplaces that didn't have screenshot approval requirements.

It is, however, a bit of a pain that to change a screenshot you have to resubmit the whole app.

For Kindle Fire you can resubmit the app meta-data without having to put in a new binary - this would probably be a better solution for everyone.

Generally, though, it is to be applauded it is not nice to see people get ripped off and generally it should remove a barrier to purchase if people know they can trust the store.

Robin Clarke, AppyNation

This change will help to combat a particularly nasty type of scam, but it sacrifices some useful functionality in the process.

In the case of some of our games, we have over 300 localised screenshots - that's a lot of scope for errors to creep in.

My worry is that the immediate result will be that Apple's submission process gets swamped with developers submitting app updates just to fix broken and missing screenshots.

The fact that it's possible for an obviously fake app to generate enough downloads to enter the charts suggests to me that there isn't an effective mechanism for users to report broken or malicious apps. Leaving a one star review isn't enough. I think this is a more glaring issue Apple need to address.

Jon Bonnick, Intelligenti

In the short term, Apple has wrong footed developers by springing this change without notice.

Some apps still have screenshots highlighting winter promotions that are now 'locked' in place. I anticipate a lot of new binaries being submitted without any real updates just to change the screenshots back. This will likely extend review times for developers.

In the long term it will effect developers' ability to highlight promotions and Joe Bloggs to find them, especially since Apple changed the App Store to a more 'Chomp like' layout with more of an emphasis placed on the first screenshot listed.

Apple could easily fix this by making the refund process for scam apps much simpler, quicker and easier.

Dave Mitchell, onimobi

Apple should probably have introduced a screenshot approval process, rather than requiring the entire app to be re-reviewed.

Ultimately this change is very bad for consumers because it will create a huge influx in empty updates that simply say "bug fixes" and just update the screenshots.

This is one of my pet hates already - as a consumer and a developer - and it puts users off updating apps when they don't get anything new for it.

Devs will need to be very careful in doing too many useless updates because it will drive users to delete said app.

Apple also need to improve abusive or bad app reporting, as it's clearing not working at the moment.
Do you have a view on the rule change, or the way it's been handled? Drop us an email at keith.andrew [at] pocketgamer.co.uk.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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Jonathan Bonnick
Just need to add - I'm quite impressed that Apple appear to have left the ability to update screenshots in for newsstand apps - really important as most newsstand titles (including ours, Swipe News) change their screenshots as each new issue is released.
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