New Apple Review Guidelines: What it means for you

App Building, App Design, Mobile News Liz Bollema 7 Sep 2017

Recently Apple published their new App Store Review Guidelines with stricter rules regarding app publication in the App Store.

Apple explained that a large percentage of apps in the App Store consists of duplicates and spam apps, along with many apps that haven’t been downloaded in years. This made Apple change the guidelines to increase uniqueness of apps and clean up the App Store. Which is good motivation, but does affect you and caused some concern for our customers.

The main cause of concern was section 4.2.6. This guideline states that “Apps created from a commercialised template or app generation service will be rejected.” This simply put, means that Apple has the right to ban any apps that share a code base or template with another app. This had many people worried it would include all apps built using a no-code app creation platform, that will inevitably share features, design and functionality.  But we are happy to tell you AppMachine has not seen a single 4.2.6 rejection to date, and received confirmation from Apple that we are allowed to continue publishing apps on behalf of our customers. We have however added a complimentary, detailed pre-check before submission that will increase the chances of the app being published, but logically, will delay the submission time for a little bit. If we spot any aspects that do not comply with the new guidelines we will email you with information and tips on how to change this, making the process much more efficient.

What you can do to make an app that complies with Apple’s new guidelines

There are several points that you as our customer and app developer can take into account when building your app that make it more likely to be published by Apple. We have collected the most important tips based on the guidelines for you below, and divided them into 5 categories. If you would like to read the full guidelines please click here

1. Safety

When people install an app, they want a safe app with appropriate content. Your app shouldn’t contain upsetting or offensive content, damage devices or be likely to cause physical harm from its use. Make sure you feature information on how to reach you with questions and support issues in the app, and be sure to make this as easy as possible.

2. Performance

Before submitting, your app needs to be complete and final*; all information and metadata should be complete and URLs must be fully functioning. Descriptions, screenshots and previews should accurately show the content of your app and be kept up to date. Also, ‘Category and Genre’ selections, ratings and keywords should be filled in and be appropriate for the app content. Please be completely honest about what the app can do and what its features are, Apple will reject apps that do not perform as advertised.

Lastly, make sure the final version of your app has been tested for bugs and stability before you submit it.

*It is important to note that AppMachine will not review unfinished apps, and these will not be included in our complimentary pre-check

Submitting unfinished apps or using only template options will get an app rejected from the App Store

3. Business

There are many ways to monetize your app, but you have to make sure your business model is obvious (explain this in the metadata and App Review notes). If it is unclear how the app works or in-app purchases aren’t immediately obvious, this may delay the review or even get your app rejected. You can give people the option to unlock features or functionalities within your app, but you must use in-app purchase. Apps may not include any other calls to action other than in-app purchase

4. Design

Every app needs to be unique and add something to the store that is not already there (unique content and design). Don’t just copy another app, but come up with your own amazing ideas. Apps that don’t have a unique design and just use template skins, images, content etc. will be rejected by Apple. So let your skills and imagination run wild, the possibilities are endless.

This also means that you should not submit multiple versions of a similar app. Developers who do this will be removed from the iOS developer program.

Submitting multiple versions of the same app will result in suspension from the iOS developer program.

Your app should include features, content and user interface that make it more than just a repackaged website. It makes more chance of being accepted if it’s useful, unique and provides lasting (entertainment) value. This means that, other than catalogs, apps should not primarily be marketing materials, advertisements, web clippings or a collection of links.

Apps should be intended for a bigger set of users and have to appeal to a broad consumer market. If an app is only interesting to a small group of people, Apple might reject it, as they state that the App Store is not the correct forum for personal apps, portfolio and photo galleries.

Apps intended for a small group of people will be rejected by Apple

5. Legal

Logically, all apps must comply with legal requirements of any location where you make them available. This also means that you must protect the privacy of users and that their data must be handled with care. Make sure your app only includes content that you created or that you have a license to use. And be sure that all mentions of Apple product names are spelled correctly in your app (‘iPhone’ instead of ‘Iphone’, ‘iTunes’ instead of ‘iTunez’), otherwise Apple will reject your app.

We hope these tips will be useful to you and make it easier to create a unique app that complies with the updated guidelines.