iOS 10.3 introduced new app review tools for developers in the form of the Reviews API. The goal, says Apple, is to allow developers to ask for feedback in a less intrusive way while also giving them the opportunity to respond publicly. The end result should be a win-win for developers and app users alike.
User feedback is vital for app developers. Not only does it provide them with information about performance bugs or other problems with their app, it also reveals what real-world users think. Maybe the app performs just fine, but the design is crummy or the experience just doesn't live up to expectations. There's no question reviews can make or break an app's success on the App Store.
Developers are allowed to ping users with pop-up notifications asking for feedback. While these pop-ups may lead to some helpful ratings and/or reviews, they often interrupt and irritate end users. Apple is making some changes for the better.
"Using the SKStoreReviewController API, you can ask users to rate or review your app while they're using it, without sending them to the App Store," explained Apple in the release notes for iOS 10.3 beta 1. "You determine the points in the user experience at which it makes sense to call the API and the system takes care of the rest."
In other words, if you're looking for some feedback, your request will now be a lot less cumbersome to end users. As the model exists today, when app users act upon a feedback request they are pulled from the app and sent to the App Store. This is a major drag.
Another noteworthy change arrives in the form of feedback request limits. Right now, there are no limits on how many times developers can ask for feedback. This means they can ping end users as much or as little as they wish. Again, this is a drag for end users. Moving forward, developers will only be able to ask for feedback up to three times per year. That may sound bad, but Apple is making up for it with the last major tool in iOS 10.3: public review responses.
"When iOS 10.3 ships to customers, [developers] will be able to respond to customer reviews on the App Store in a way that is available for all customers to see," said Apple. This feature will also be available on the Mac App Store.
Review responses have been available in the Google Play Store for years. This is a huge change for iOS developers, who have been limited to sending private responses. Making review responses public should encourage a more constructive dialog between developers and end-users with respect to app behavior and performance.
Apple releases iOS 10.3 beta 1 this week, so developers can take an early look at the SKStoreReviewController API right away. Apple hasn't indicated when iOS 10.3 might be distributed to end users, but iOS builds usually spend one to two months in beta testing before public distribution.
Apple also released fresh betas of macOS Sierra 10.12.4, tvOS 10.2, and Xcode 8.3 -- each with a slew of new developer tools.