Apple just implemented a small, but important change to its App Store policies that is likely to have app developers crying out with joy. Simply put, users with devices running pre-release versions of the iOS software, such as the recent versions of the iOS 9 beta, can no longer leave reviews for apps. This may seem harsh, or anti-consumer, but it’s actually to protect developers’ apps from having their reputation trashed by negative reviews based on bugs and crashes — things to expect from a beta anyway.
Now, when user on a device with iOS 9 beta software (and presumably any future beta OS releases) tries to leave a review in the App Store — good or bad — they will get a pop-up message that says reviews aren’t permitted on pre-release software.
This became widely called for among developers after an opinion piece fromMacStories‘ Federico Vittici last week brought attention to the issue. Basically, an app could be working fine on the latest public release version of iOS (in this case, iOS 8.4), but suffer from any number of problems on the iOS 9 beta, like crashes, lag, missing features, or simply not work at all. But these issues are out of app developers’ control, as they are not responsible for the iOS beta.
The problem is made worse when large numbers of users leave 1-star reviews for app in response to beta-related issues, as this can ruin an app’s reputation in store rankings. Plus, developers can’t release patches for the bugs and issues found in iOS 9 betas, only full updates for iOS 8. In most cases, this means the problems users are experiencing with the apps will persist until the final public release of iOS 9, expected sometime this fall.
There’s no word yet if this new app reviews policy will also make its way to the beta versions of OS X for Mac, namely the latest 10.11 El Capitan. However, it does seem likely seeing as how quickly Apple has addressed developers’ outcry.