How To Change Your App Store Release Date

Update 2nd December 2009 – it looks like this no longer works, the sort by release date in iTunes now sorts by the version 1.0 date, ignoring all updates. PCalc is now back on page 341 of Utilities. Oh well…

So, not long after my last post I started getting emails telling me about the mysterious “Availability Trick” that was quietly being passed on from iPhone developer to iPhone developer like some secret incantation.

In short, it lets you change the release date of your app, as listed in the App Store, and overcomes the problem some developers have been seeing recently with our older apps banished to the distant corners of the store, even when we ship significant updates.

How interesting.

So, I tried it. And it indeed works.

PCalc is now listed as having been released on the 13th of October, which is pretty close to when the 1.1 update actually appeared on the store. I’ve still missed the main window of exposure of course, but the 4th page of Utilities is much better than the 31st in terms of discovery.

Now, if I was being sensible, I should just keep my head down, be quiet about it, and use the trick next time I do a release like some other people are doing. But, to be honest, that’s not really fair on other developers, and doesn’t fix any of the underlying problems.

So, how does it work? It’s really simple. In the “Edit Application” section of iTunes Connect, there’s a “Pricing” section. In that, there’s an “Availability Date” series of popups.

This date is defined in the help as “the date in which your application will be available for purchase on the App Store”. My understanding of this was that you used it to set a date in the future that you would like a given release to happen on. So, you could upload some music ahead of time, for example, and it would only appear on the official release date.

But if you retroactively edit the value to some point in the past, less than or equal to the date that the update in question actually hit the store, your release date as displayed in the App Store will be changed to that date, and your app will be moved to the appropriate point in the listings.

So, is this behaviour a bug, a loophole, or how it’s actually supposed to work?

The description doesn’t suggest it will have any effect like that, and it’s not mentioned in the App Store documentation either. And needless to say, developers haven’t all had an email saying “oh, sorry about all the changes we made to the store, here’s what you need to do now to ensure your application is listed correctly”.

This seems to be pretty widely known about however and is being used today, so basically we’re back to the situation we were in before the sorting changes, except the people who don’t know about the “trick” are being penalised in the listings.

Perhaps the whole release date issue isn’t really a policy change at all, and we’re all seeing shadowy patterns and conspiracies where there aren’t any. Maybe it’s all just down to a lack of communication and documentation.

Put it this way, if PCalc is listed on the 31st page of the store again by the time you read this, then at least we know the answer…

26 Responses to “How To Change Your App Store Release Date”


  • Obviously what you need to do now is release a very minor update, 1.1.1, and then use this trick to get your app on the front page again. I suggest using what I’ve seen some developers have as their update “code optimizations”. ;^)

    What I really don’t get is the “New” category on the app store. The stuff that is in there is never new. For example “ifxMagic” is listed one the first page of the New category and yet it has a release date of August 28th. Huh?

    The AppStore is just plain broken. It’s awful.

  • I eventually figured out that’s what other developers were doing.

    I’m still a bit scared about trying it myself. Do you think Apple would de-list an app for changing their availability date? They haven’t said anything specific about it.

  • I don’t think Apple would de-list an app for doing so – it’s not even clear to me that it’s not what you are supposed be doing.

    I think worst case, if it’s an unintentional loophole and it gets closed, we’ll all end up back on the last page.

  • Well, it seems to work!

    Interestingly, though, the date it gave us was the the date of our last update, not the date I set.

    I think this is what we’re supposed to be doing every time we do an update. The only question is, why isn’t it automatic?

  • Hi I ahve a question about that trick. Does it still work? Must you change the release Date when updating or when the last version is ready to buy.

    It would be great if you could answer me that question.

    Best regards

    mlion

  • It still works to my knowledge – I used it for the PCalc 1.2 release a few weeks back. I changed the availability date as soon as I got the “ready to buy” email.

  • Have just uploaded my app for Apple testing and I only just learned of this trick. Is there any way I can edit the date now rather than wait for Apple to complete testing.

    Thanks in advance.

  • If you change the date now, while it’s being approved, you are setting a minimum date for the release – so for example a week from now say. Even if it’s done testing, they won’t release it until that date. But if they take two weeks to approve it, then your release date will be set to a week before that. Usually, I wait until I get the “Ready For Sale” email, then change the date to that day. It usually takes an hour or two (or longer) from that point to appear anyway.

  • Yes James is exactly right and it still works. My app went live on Friday 4/17 (after 30 days in the review process) and that day I fixed the date to the 17th and my app showed up in the new releases immediately.

  • I set our release date a month in the future and I was planning on moving it back to a week in the future and issuing promo codes after Apple approved it. If I do that, can anyone tell me what date our game will be listed under, the date that I set, or the date that Apple approved our app for release?

    In other words, do we lose out on being at the top of the list if we do this?

    Thanks in advance for any info.

    Doug

  • Doug, I’m not sure – I haven’t done that before. I _think_ it should be set to the future date, because it doesn’t appear on the store until that point, but I don’t want to promise you! I’m assuming this is a new app, not an update. Come back and let us know…

  • Important safety tip:

    If you submit an update to iTunes Connect, then set the update’s Availability Date for, say, two weeks in the future (the typical approval turnaround time), your current version will vanish from the App Store, even though it shows as “Ready For Sale” in Connect. It seems that the store doesn’t track separate availability dates for the current and upcoming versions, even though the Connect website makes it appear that way.

    So, the advised method of waiting until you get the approval notification before setting the Availability Date does seem to be the best way to handle it. Trying to pre-set an update’s availability date only results in your app vanishing from the store.

  • We received READY FOR SALE on 4/24 and future dated availability to 5/12/09. Then, on 5/11/09, we had to change the availability date to 5/11/09. Now, our game is sorting by the 4/24 date and doesn’t even appear when you sort by release date becuase the 4/24 date is too old.

    Any idea why this happened?

  • Hi publisher – did you set the availability only after you got the ready for sale? I think that might be the problem. It seems to be, if you set the availability between the point of submission and the point of getting the Ready For Sale, you get a different behaviour than if you set it afterwards.

    When your app is approved by Apple, they check the availability date and if that date isn’t some time in the future your application is actually pushed out to the iTunes servers. At that point, the release date is fixed and you cannot change it.

    If you future dated it as soon as you submitted, I think that would have worked – the only thing is that I am not sure you would get a Ready For Sale email until the future date when it is put on sale. There’s no separate “Your app is approved” email.

  • On a new release, the date is the earlier of the date Apple approves or the release date you set. I ran into this problem, too, when I launched FastFigures. If you set the date in the future and then wait for that date, Apple won’t show you in the New apps section. If you leave the dates, however, as your submission date and Apple’s approval date and then change your submission date after you are ready to sell to match Apple’s, then you’ll show up in the New apps section.

    I wrote about this, and a lot more, here:
    http://eliainsider.com/2009/04/15/lessons-learned-one-month-in-the-iphone-appstore/

  • This is a little frustrating. As I did not understand this when I submitted my little app “Alien Farts” for first approval. I set the release date to the day I submitted to the App Store. I thought this would mean immediately available for release as soon as it was approved and the release date would update to the “ready for sale” date. How am I to guess when Apple will finish conducting their review on the application? It took 15 days in total for the review process to complete. The application was only reviewed and released for sale late last night and it immediately was buried and appeared to be 16 days old. Hrmpf! I changed it now. Does anyone know how long before the change takes effect?

  • I think it should update in around 4-8 hours, but I don’t know what happens if you’ve already set a date. Let us know!

  • Did they change how this works again? Just got my 1.0.1 update approved. My app is still on page 6 in iTunes, with the July 16 apps, although it says right there “Released July 24, 2009″. Hmm.

    I’m now job hunting.

  • The PCalc 1.7 update correctly ended up on the 18th on July in the listed, so it seemed to be ok a week ago at least. But the date sorting makes no difference to sales these days anyway in my experience, sadly. In this case, perhaps it was a caching issue with the iTunes servers? I see lots of problems like this in the first few hours after a release.

  • Nice trick, thanks.
    I have a related question about publishing date: what’s the publishing time on the publishing day?
    Is it 12:00 am (midnight) PDT or PST or UTC ?
    How do you sync your external communication (eg. your site, your PR) with the availability time?

  • I think it might be midnight within each store – so the Japanese store will get it eight hours before the UK, and the UK eight hours before the US and so on. But don’t quote me on that, I haven’t used the release date to set a date in the future.

    If you don’t set a release date before it is approved, I know it appears on all stores simultaneously – but with that you don’t know exactly when it will go live which does make coordinating PR difficult. What I have done in the past is basically ignore the time of day it actually goes live, and send out my press at the time of my choosing.

  • Thanks, James.

    I’ll check on the App Store in Australia and Japan at midnight local time.

  • Hi,
    our app went live in Australia at 5PM GMT (or so, one our go) and is not available on European stores as I write (6PM GMT).

    A few hours after midnight, then

    Regards

    Giovanni

  • so here’s a rather dumb question if i may ask.. I haven;t been through the update process in itunesconnect, but i am wondering if apple allows you to put a release date of when you want your update to go out, or is it like – as soon as the update is approved it goes out. Basically no control over the release date of the udpate??

    Changing the date is another issue,as i see the trick is mentioned several times.

    I was just concerned if they don’t allow you to control what date the update goes out.

  • Yes, you can put a release date in the future when you submit, and the app won’t appear on the store before then. This trick is about changing the date after it has been approved and appears on the store.

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