An app developer on a roller coaster

🎢 Hyphens, Hurdles, and Hope

How Gitonium Finally Made it Live

Hi Reader!

In my previous newsletter, I wrote that I was getting near a point where I could ship this app, except there was always one more remaining feature I wanted to build first. Then I slept on it and decided there wasn’t any good reason why I couldn’t just submit it. I will keep working on it anyway. Why not put it out in the world?

Screenshot of a Tweet saying SHIP IT
Why not follow the advice of these two indie legends?

So on that faithful Thursday night, I said, “screw it,” and submitted Gitonium. It didn’t take long for it to go into review.

I went to bed that night feeling a mixture of relief and excitement. The following day I was still in review. At lunchtime - still in review. It has been a long time since I submitted a new app to the App Store. And that was only on the iOS app store. It’s my first time on the Mac app store, so how long would it take? I told myself this could take a few days even.

When I went to bed that night, it was still in review. Next morning: same thing. I decided to busy myself working on the next update. I found a crash and eventually tracked it down. It would crash whenever it tried to syntax highlight more than 69 hyphens in a row. I better fix this so that when I get approved, I’ll submit this crash fix immediately. This took me a couple of evenings to figure out and fix.

Each morning and afternoon, I checked if I was still in review, and I was. After being in review for five days, I felt increasingly uneasy. Will I ever go out of review? I began searching for and finding horror stories about developers who submitted their apps to Apple and never got approved. Is there something about my app they don’t like or approve of? If so, why won’t they tell me? Days passed.

After 7 days of review, I talked to some friends and filled out Apple’s Expedited Review Form, hoping that might get me unstuck. I submitted the expedite request and got a response that my request was granted. I went to bed hopeful. I woke up on the morning of the 8th day and found my app was still in review. Evening came - still in review. A few more days passed. On the 11th day of being in app review, I asked ChatGPT for suggestions for why an app could be stuck in review and got an intriguing response.

Screenshot of Apple's App Review Guidelines
Make sure your app fully complies with the guidelines.

Make sure your app fully complies with the guidelines. What guideline could I be bumping up against? I spent an eternity combing through the rules, looking for a possible reason.

In the end, I found two rules that one could interpret in such a way:

  • 3.1.1a Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys
  • 2.4.5(vi) Apps may not present a license screen at launch, require license keys, or (…)

I have one feature in Gitonium that needs an API key: the automatic commit messages. It uses openAI’s API and artificial intelligence to analyze the code and its changes, which costs money. I want to avoid paying a monthly bill because my users are making commits. For one person, it’s cheap - like cents per month, but it could add up if enough people use it. That’s why I designed the feature so users can bring their own OpenAI API key. Could Apple want me to make this an in-app purchase? Was that why I’m stuck in review? I’d prefer not to have to do that. Here you buy this app, and immediately you must pay a dollar or whatever to use one of its features. I would be nickel-and-diming people.

A few more days passed, and I was still in review. After 13 days of being in review, I resigned to my fate and began implementing in-app purchases for this. It would be a lot of work for something that feels like a worse user experience.

On day 14 in review, right before bed, I posted a tweet saying that I’d been in review for two whole weeks, and one person replied that he had been in review for more than 2 months!🙀 (Hi Xavier!👋) That’s terrifying!

I went to bed that night thinking about in-app purchases and token counting. 😔

Screenshot from my iPhone: Gitonium is approved!
Gitonium is approved! 🎉

The following day, I woke up to this on my phone. OMG, it’s approved!🎉 What is happening? Did someone from Apple see my tweet? Is this just randomness? The stochastic world?

I quickly clicked the release button, and now Gitonium is live on the App Store! Wow! I’m relieved I didn’t have to go the in-app purchase route.

That, my friends, is how Gitonium ended up on the App Store. It’s a one-time purchase of $39.99 (US), and because it’s the Mac App Store, you can use it on as many Macs as you want, for as long as you want. You can find it on the Mac App Store.❤️

I’ve since submitted my 69-hyphens-crash fix, which was reviewed and approved in less than two hours!

I use Gitonium daily in my day job, and many more features and improvements are coming soon. Next time I’ll talk about some of them.

Thanks for following along!


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