Phil Schiller

Phil Schiller allegedly held back App Store review automation

The former head of the App Store Review process at Apple believes Apple won’t make major changes to improve the process unless Phil Schiller steps away from managing it.

The App Store Review Guidelines and the process itself receive changes over time to improve the App Store’s catalog, though it has remained the target of complaints from developers for quite some time. In an interview, former head of App Store reviews Phillip Shoemaker believes things won’t change unless current chief Phil Schiller moves away from the role.

The inconsistency in rulings over some mobile apps features and content has caused problems, but it’s a solvable issue to Shoemaker. The answer, he explains to, is to learn from Google and to rely on automation.

This could be done “especially now with the AI tools that are out there,” Shoemaker offers. “You can do probably 80% of the work the review team does.”

However, Schiller is seen as the stumbling block of any automation moves, and allegedly was the source of “management pushback” on the subject.

“Phil [Schiller] wants a set of eyes on every single app,” Shoemaker claims. “I believe he is still basing that on one of the last things Steve [Jobs] told him, which is that you’ve always got to have a set of human eyes on every app that goes in the store. And Phil maybe carries that with him all the time.”

To solve this, Shoemaker proposes that the way to “radically improve the App Store is have Phil be an Apple fellow and get his hands off the App Store.” Eddy Cue is seen as “more progressive” along with Greg Jozwiak and App Store VP Matt Fischer.

Phil just needs to get his meaty paws off the App Store,” he reasons. “If Phil doesn’t step back, it’ll absolutely be the courts making changes,” referencing the EU sideloading issue.

“Phil needs to step back, I think that’s the main thing – new blood needs to come in there and make some changes because cutting the price and opening up the guidelines to allow new interesting things is going to be critical.”

Wiggle room and cash cows

The interview also covered that review guidelines are written in “a very grey way” to provide “wiggle room to be able to shift our approvals or rejections,” Shoemaker explained. While the idea was ato “start that way and then refine them over time,” a rewrite in 2017 did nothing but open up more grey areas.

“It sholud be pretty solid now, the guidelines should be very black and white,” Shoemaker insists.

Shoemaker also believes that Apple’s 30% cut of App Store transactions may be too high. “Apple deserved the 30% in 2009, but look, it’s 2023, things have changed a lot.”

Referring it to a cash cow that Apple doesn’t want to give up, Shoemaker thinks “this is a utility and they need to be charging utility prices, not innovation prices. I think they would do amazingly well if they dropped it down to 5%, something closer to credit card prices.”

Even dropping the percentage down, Shoemaker considers that Apple “would still make a good amount of money,” with the expenses of marketing, review, and the App Store operation in general easily covered under such a price cut.

Shoemaker also revealed some anecdotes about his work under Schiller, insisting it was tough in part because he would “love to throw insults at people.”

One anecdote mentioned involved an app that could control a real cockroach, which Schiller wanted to be approved despite protests it would prompt complaints from organizations such as PETA. The app was approved, and the complaints rolled in.

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