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The App Store is great, but it keeps us very separated from our customers. They can buy an app and leave a review but that's it. There's no way for developers to respond or any other way to contact the customer. Until now...

I honestly never thought I'd ever be writing this but iOS 10.3 which went into beta this week now includes the ability for developers to respond to reviews and for both customers and developers to edit their reviews/responses!

There's more too! The new version also includes SDK additions which allow reviews to be requested, written and posted inside your app, without bouncing the user out to the App Store. The whole process looks very smooth.

So, we're all happy right? Well, of course not. πŸ™„ This is a vast improvement but there are some caveats. For example, apps can only prompt customers for a review three times in a year. It doesn't matter how much you spam the API, once the prompt has been shown 3 times, you're done and new app versions don't reset the count either. Also, Apple are going to be transitioning these APIs to be the only acceptable way to request reviews and I expect other methods to be covered by new review guidelines as 10.3 gains adoption.

I am actually happy with both those restrictions though. The "standard" method of requesting reviews right now is so full of tricks that it makes the whole thing just feel grubby. In my opinion, anything we can do to cut down on review prompt spam and standardise it into something users can trust is a good move. I'd even predict that once users do get back trust, response rates are even likely to rise. (Look at me making unprovable predictions! πŸ˜€)

I do have one thing I'd like to see in addition to these changes though. I hope that they do away with reviews being "wiped" when a new version of an app is released. I understand why this is being done today, but it also contributed to causing the review prompt spam problem that we ended up with. Instead, I'd like to see reviews stick around forever, but for their relevance decay over time in some way so that it's possible for ratings to reflect the current state of the app. There's no announcement about anything like that at the moment though.

Still, we're going to be able to respond to customer reviews and that's a great change that I had given up on. Amazing.

Dave Verwer

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