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App Store Approval Team Has a Little Help from Phil Schiller on Thornier Decisions

With its operations often kept under a very heavy curtain of secrets, it's always interesting to see an inside look at some of Apple's teams whether it's in design, engineering, marketing or whatever. Today the CNBC published a report focusing on the approval teams of the App store, with some very curious stated details.

For example, Apple maintains app approval teams in various locations around the world. The “core” team based on Sunnyvale, California, a few miles from Apple Park in Cupertino, but dozens of other teams operate scattered to cover applications from all countries. The most recent approval offices have been opened in Cork (Ireland) and Shanghai (China).

Approval team employees are all hired directly by Apple, with all the pay-per-hour, health plan, vacation and all benefits. This practice is different from that adopted by other companies, such as Facebook and YouTube, which use third-party firms to create their content review network.

Members of Ma's approval teams have responsibilities assigned according to their job experience: initially, they are tasked with reviewing simple apps for iPhones; Over time, they also start to deal with Apple Watch and Apple TV applications, as well as those with in-house purchase options and subscriptions. Employees analyze between 50 and 100 apps a day, testing them on iPads, Apple TVs, and Apple Watches and reviewing their code; In most cases, the approval (or disapproval) is very rapid and does not take more than a few minutes.

Some decisions, however, are more difficult especially when a disapproved app and its developers appeal the decision, or when the reason for refusal is to include some ethically or politically sensitive content. For this, there is a special team called Executive Review Board (ERB, something like “Executive Review Panel”) and led by Ma's senior vice president of global marketing, Phil Schiller.

ERB meets weekly to discuss certain decisions made by teams and make final decisions about some apps; the executive team's verdict always the final word in the App Store approval or disapproval process was the executives who decided, for example, to ban the InfoWars app, produced by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and accused of promoting ideas of supremacy white.

According to CNBC, Apple does not, in this process, prefer to apps from large companies or developers that are close to it. All applications, according to the report, go through the same steps, with the same rigor.

Of course, the process is not perfect, we have seen many cases of clearly inappropriate apps slipping through the approval teams fingers, while others perfectly safe and acceptable were banned for arbitrary reasons. Still, the awesome machine, isn't it?