The ongoing Epic Games v. Apple trial continues to provide insight into Apple’s App Store processes, with documents today offering up details on the number of apps submitted to the App Store and rejected by Apple’s review processes.
Apple received an average of five million app submissions per year between 2017 and 2019, and between 33 and 35 percent of apps submitted were rejected by Apple’s review team. On average, there were 1.7 million apps rejected per year, though the rejection rate was closer to 40 percent in 2020 based on trial testimony.
Apple’s documentation suggests that the App Store sees 100,000 App Store submissions per week, which are dealt with by 500 human experts that Apple has on hand. Prior to getting to a human review, apps are analyzed by Apple-designed tools to check for malware and policy violations.
A testing tool called Mercury runs through static and dynamic analysis processes, with the tool allowing Apple to see inside apps to check for hidden code or abuse, and there are other review tools that Apple has nicknamed “Magellan” and “Columbus.” After automated testing, apps receive human oversight.
Dynamic testing includes everything from battery usage to file system access and privacy requests to access device hardware like the camera and microphone, while static analysis checks app size, entitlements, in-app purchases, keywords, descriptions, and more.
In 2015, Apple discussed acquiring SourceDNA, a company that made a tool to allow companies to see the code inside apps. Apple did end up purchasing the company and using its engineers to design a new tool for app oversight.
Interestingly, Apple documents depict the workstation of one of its human reviewers, featuring a desktop with an iMac, MacBook Pro, multiple iOS devices, several displays, game controllers, and more.
Apple marketing director Trystan Kosmynka was questioned for most of the morning, and Epic lawyers visited a favorite talking point – App Store mistakes. Kosmynka was grilled about some of the apps that slip through the review process, such as an app about school shooting that he said in an email he was “dumbfounded” had been missed.
On this topic, Kosmynka was asked if the app review process is unnecessary because of the mistakes that are sometimes made, but said that all it means is that Apple has to “continuously be better.” He said that Apple works diligently to close loopholes, and that without app review, iOS would be a “free for all” that would be “incredibly dangerous to customers, to kids.”
The Epic vs. Apple trial will continue for another two weeks, with the first week set to wrap up today. Apple CEO Tim Cook and other executives are expected to testify during the third week.