Two items have been high on App Store wish lists for a while now. Developers have wanted to be able to respond to App Store review and customers have wanted some control over how and even if developers prompt them for reviews. Well, with iOS 10.3 and macOS Sierra 10.12.4, Apple is checking those wishes off the list — but it's how the company is doing it that'll matter.
What's new with review responses and review prompts?
Apple has recently created a new Customer Support role (opens in new tab) within iTunes Connect. The role allows organization administrators to assign a person to a dedicated customer support role, letting that person respond to app reviews. The Customer Support role can be the only one that someone has in your organization, or it can be assigned to someone as an additional role. If someone has the App Manager or Marketer roles, they will automatically find themselves assigned to Customer Support as well.
How will the new review prompts work?
Apple will be providing a new API for app review prompts. Instead of a pop-up that boots you out into the App Store app, you'll be able to give your review in-line, from an embedded App Store review sheet. It's similar to how you can quickly send an email from an app without getting booted into the Mail app and having to find your way back. Developers can also prompt for review from any place within the app, from right at launch to right after you post a photo or win a challenge, for example.
What's to stop developers from prompting all the time?
In exchange for the new power, though, Apple's requiring new responsibility. Namely, developers can only prompt for review a maximum of three times a year. That's per 365 days, not per calendar year. Also, developers can't prompt again if you've already given a review during that period.
Can the prompt do anything more than ask for a review?
It doesn't look like it. Developers may have others ways of offering support or additional services, but not through the review prompt.
@reneritchie The way the review prompt is currently shown, there's no option for getting support instead of leaving a bad rating.@reneritchie The way the review prompt is currently shown, there's no option for getting support instead of leaving a bad rating.— David Barnard (@drbarnard) January 24, 2017January 24, 2017
Can the prompts be disabled?
You bet. Apple's adding a system-wide toggle to turn review prompts off. It'll be left on to start but can be turned off at any time if any user finds the process disruptive or annoying.
What about review responses, how will those work?
Apple is also going to start letting developers respond to reviews. Like with reviews, developers will be able to edit their responses. So, if they have updated information or simply want to change something they later regret sending, they'll be able to do it. Users will also be able to mark responses as helpful or unhelpful, and report them, just like reviews.
@reneritchie Key concerns will be the ability to provide useful replies - like including a documentation link.@reneritchie Key concerns will be the ability to provide useful replies - like including a documentation link.— Greg Pierce (@agiletortoise) January 24, 2017January 24, 2017
Will that make the App Store a tech support channel?
Fair question. Since developers will be able to respond to reviews customers may start to expect responses. That could easily turn App Store reviews into an additional support channel developers may feel pressure to monitor, which means it'll require more time and resources. Indie devs will need to figure out how to make the benefits exceed the costs in that regard.
@reneritchie Conscientious developers with good customer service will benefit from being able to respond to complaints.@reneritchie Conscientious developers with good customer service will benefit from being able to respond to complaints.— Jean MacDonald (@macgenie) January 24, 2017January 24, 2017
@reneritchie simply put, we won't conversate within a review thread. We will direct them to the proper channel such as an email....@reneritchie simply put, we won't conversate within a review thread. We will direct them to the proper channel such as an email....— Dexter Talbert (@DexterTalbert) January 24, 2017January 24, 2017
Any changes to how the App Store shows reviews?
Nope. No changes to the current filtering system, so reviews and responses to older versions of the app won't show up unless a user expressly taps or clicks to see reviews from all versions.
That's going to create some tension between developers who want new reviews for new versions and that hard 3-times per year limit on prompts.
Bottom line it for me?
The App Store has been making steady improvements since senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, took over sole responsibility for it in late 2015. While a lot remains to be addressed, things like submission turn around and abandoned apps have all gotten batter. Now, review prompts and responses.
Google Play Store has offered the ability for developers to respond to reviews for a long time now and, overall, everyone seems happy with the dynamic. Time — and the public availability of the new features — will tell how well it works on the App Store and Mac App Store, but I'm optimistic.
Any new feature invites the potential for new issues, but overall I think this will provide customers and developers of good intent a powerful new way to interact and that's good for everyone.
Reviews are a big component of the front-facing part of the App Store experience. They're important to how many people browse and ultimately choose apps.
And now, developers are part of that process as well.
Update July, 2017: Added information on the new Customer Support role.
Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.
This is great news for most developers. I’d love to reply to some reviews where the reviewer has made a mistake or I have since fixed any issue they mention. For example my app has regional versions and someone gave the Southern Europe version only 1 star because it didn’t cover Amsterdam, despite the description listing the countries that it covered (the Netherlands is in the Northern Europe version). Also I got a couple of 1 star reviews on the US version because it didn’t have many offline POIs for their location. There are a few places where the data is a bit patchy, so it was a fair complaint (albeit very nastily phrased!). However I fixed the problem ages ago by supplemented the offline POIs with online POIs from Apple, so I’d like to be able to respond and tell people this. Every other review is 4 star or usually 5 stars, so these 1 star reviews have always annoyed me, but now I can at least mitigate their effect by replying. Phil Schiller is doing a great job with the App Store. I love the new shorter app review times, and this change should be even better.
This sounds like it will be great for devs and customers. I tend to leave either rave reviews praising an app or scathing reviews. If I leave a scathing review that I am incorrect or it's an issue that the developer is planning on addressing it would be great to have the dev correct me or assure me they are working on the issue. Before if I left a negative review I would likely delete the app right after. Now I will wait a little bit for a response. Does anyone know if there will be some sort of notification that alerts a user if a dev has responded to their review? It would be nice if this was included. Beats having to go back and check to see if the dev gave a response. Sent from the iMore App
Now Phil just needs to address the disaster that is the Mac App Store and adding a way for devs to charge for significant upgrades (should be limited to 1-2x/yr). I personally hate apps that are free, but to be useful you have to pay a monthly subscription. Especially when devs want $4.99/mo or more. Only apps I am willing to spend that much on are task/project mgmt apps and MS Office. Sent from the iMore App
TextTool 2 used App Packages to do that. It's the best of both worlds. You can charge for an update, make it free, or only charge if a customer got it in sale. Best of all, if you don't like the new version, you can keep the old one. Upgrade pricing is not needed; app packages are.
Rene - Why was commenting turned off on the post about Shia's "protest art". Either take the post down or allow comments with different points of view. Preferably keep political BS off this tech site. iMore is free to put whatever you want on your site, but that doesn't mean we have to continue reading. Sent from the iMore App
Great news and thanks for the clarification.
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