February 2nd, 2019

Despair, Thy Name is App Store

I’m sitting here at 2am, the glow of my laptop screen illuminating my hands as I type. My wife is upstairs, worried about me but powerless to soothe my mind. She can’t sleep either.

Most of the time, it’s fine. It’s fun. I write an app and ship it to the world. I don’t make a huge amount of money from it, but topped up with a little bit of income from part-time consulting, I have a nice little business. I’m proud of it.

Sometimes, it’s not fun. The problem with running a small business is that you’re a tiny cog in multiple corporate machines. Not important enough to get noticed, but dependent enough on them that a tiny blip in their system can ruin you. The last time I was up at 2am, staring at my laptop with a worried wife upstairs was also because of Apple. That time it was App Review, or something. Probably something to do with subscriptions.

On Wednesday afternoon, I accidentally shipped the worst bug of my career. On Thursday morning, I fixed it, pushed an update to the App Store, and thankfully it got approved quickly.

Unfortunately, there’s currently a glitch in the App Store, and it’s still serving the broken version of my app to the world alongside the release notes and version metadata of the fixed one. “Fixed the crash!” it gleefully claims, cruelly delivering a very much unfixed binary. I’ve since uploaded a second update in the hopes that it’d get unstuck. No dice. The App Store is now serving a build from two versions ago alongside metadata from the current version.

There’s no way to call in to Developer Support that I can find any more, and the old numbers I have don’t work. The contact site is selling me the EU call centres have closed and won’t let me contact the US ones. None of them reopen until Monday now, anyway.

I’ve spent the entire day trying to fix this. An hour on the phone with EU Developer Support, who were trying to help but ultimately were powerless.

My only two options now are to let the fates decide when my problem gets fixed, or to completely remove my app from the App Store. Both options are bad. I can’t speak to anyone at Apple for well over 48 hours. Pulling the app makes it look like my business has disappeared and customer faith plummets. Leaving it up risks hitting that one user who’ll shout from the rooftops how you’re a scam artist and stealing people’s money.

When this tiny blip in the App Store’s CDN propagation goes away, I’ll forget about it soon enough. Hell, in the morning this post will probably seem melodramatic even to me, even if the problem is still ongoing. Especially if it’s resolved.

I’m writing this for the next time I’m sitting at my laptop at 2am, head in my hands, wondering why I’m gambling my livelihood and reputation on a company that takes 30% of my app’s sales and delivers, well… this.

This time it’ll be fine. The next time too, if I’m honest. But after that? I don’t know how many more times I can take this. Then again, this kind of stuff happening occasionally is pretty much par for the course in small business.

Sorry to complain. Stiff upper lip, and all that.