It’s safe to say that 2020 has been very different than years prior. But one thing is remaining consistent through everything this year has brought: The App Store holiday shutdown will occur at the end of December.
App Store Holiday Schedule 2020 Announcement
Apple announced its App Store holiday schedule today, one month in advance of the scheduled shutdown. From Apple:
November 23, 2020
The busiest season on the App Store is almost here. Make sure your apps are up to date and ready for the holidays, as new apps and app updates will not be accepted December 23 through 27 (Pacific Time). Please ensure time for your releases to be scheduled, submitted, and approved in advance. Other App Store Connect and developer account features will remain available.
During this time, no apps can go through the review process, whether they are brand new apps looking to go live or into preorder, or existing apps looking to get an update out. What does this mean, and how should developers and marketers plan ahead?
App Store Connect Holiday Schedule Planning
Since 2016 (back when iTunes Connect was still a thing), Apple has listed the end-of-year shutdown to last from December 23rd to 27th. This is a period of time when people across all industries, including App Store Review, will take time off for the holidays. As stated on their Developer News and Updates site, releases should be scheduled, submitted and approved in advance.
While the timing for scheduling and submitting an update is under a developer’s control, keep in mind that the timing for an approval is entirely in Apple’s hands. In years past, many developers who have taken this deadline to mean the 22nd (which is technically before the shutdown) have not seen their updates go live until the 28th-30th, or even into the new year.
If a significant update or new app needs to go out prior to the shutdown, it’s best to submit no later than the 18th, ideally earlier. As the shutdown deadline approaches, more and more developers rush to get their apps scheduled and submitted; as this happens, there are longer and longer review times. Each year, some apps submitted a few days before the deadline can get placed into a backfill queue that starts back up on the 28th- and apps that submit from the 28th into the new year will have to wait their turn in line.
Factors to Consider: When to Submit?
In an ideal scenario, you can submit your new app or app update on or before the 18th and go live before the shutdown without having to worry too much. However, consider if your app meets any of the below criteria:
- A history of rejections
- Using features or marketing collateral Apple may request proof of licensing rights for
- Having features, such as external medical hardware, Apple may request documentation for
- Dealing with sensitive user data
- A brand new app from a brand new developer, never submitted for approval (and therefore never audited by Apple’s review team) before
In short, if your app may be at risk of being found in violation of the App Store Review Guidelines, you may want to submit before the 18th just in case you have to submit another update. If any significant changes are being added, ensure all areas of your app and Product Page comply with guidelines.
For example, if you are adding subscriptions, ensure the recurring nature of the subscription is included in the description; if there is a significant UI/UX change, ensure that is reflected in the latest screenshots so they accurately depict the app in-use.
Even if your app is “probably” safe with these factors considered, it’s always best to submit earlier rather than later if possible.
Schedule a Happy Holiday
Just like holiday shopping, you wouldn’t want to show up the day before the store closes, only to find an overflowing line or that they are all sold out of the perfect gift you wanted. It’s better to go ahead of time, and plan to go even further in advance just in case the first time you go to a store they don’t have the item you want and are turned away.
While this in-store holiday shopping analogy doesn’t quite work for 2020 like it would have in previous years, the Apple Holiday schedule does. Be sure to schedule, submit and get approval for your new app or updates well before the shutdown deadline to ensure a happy holiday season.