AGENCY LESSONS

Dealing with Apple App Store Rejections & App Removals

App Store reviewers are increasing efforts to remove apps that are problematic or that infringe on the App Store Guidelines.

In recent news, Apple has removed the widely popular YouTube iOS App named “ProTube” from the App Store. This app became problematic after numerous attempts by Google to push the developer and force them to remove the app. After several attempts, Google took their fight to Apple, who quietly removed the app on Sept 1. Building apps everyday, we’ve seen and dealt with these kinds of issues regularly with the App Review team at Apple. Their goal is to provide a reliable medium to their users that delivers quality products. However, on occasion, the App Review team’s position of power blinds them from seeing all points of view. On several occasions we’ve worked with the App Store Review Team to modify, tweak, or completely pivot our client’s apps and business models to be granted entry into the App Store.

For more information on “ProTube”, see the full article on Mashable - “Apple Pulls Popular Third-Party YouTube App 'ProTube' From the App Store” - Sept 7, 2017 — https://www.macrumors.com/2017/09/04/youtube-app-protube-pulled-from-app-store/ ). 

Apps Pulled From The App Store

We can’t blame Apple for wanting to keep the App Store clear of legally problematic apps and products that infringe on guidelines created for the masses. But these strict rules imposed on submissions do pose concerns which often require an expert hand to navigate. Being fully aware of the intricacies associated with App Store submission is paramount when producing client work. Nobody wants to invest substantial amounts of time and money only to be met with a rejected submission. Our goal is to avoid these kinds of costly tug-of-wars from the very beginning. Leveraging experience and knowledge of the guidelines is invaluable.

At times, the App Store guidelines are somewhat incomplete. Have a look at the “Spam” guidelines below:

App Store Review Guidelines - https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/

4.3 Spam

Don’t create multiple Bundle IDs of the same app. If your app has different versions for specific locations, sports teams, universities, etc., consider submitting a single app and provide the variations using in-app purchase. Also avoid piling on to a category that is already saturated; the App Store has enough fart, burp, flashlight, and Kama Sutra apps already. Spamming the store may lead to your removal from the Developer Program.

The “Spam” guideline you’ll receive behind the scenes in the iTunes Connect Resolution Center looks more like this:

Guideline 4.3 - Design - Spam

We noticed that your app provides the same feature set as other apps you've submitted to the App Store; it simply varies in content or language, which is considered a form of spam.

Next Steps

When creating multiple apps where content is the only varying element, you should offer a single app to deliver differing content to customers. Alternatively, you may consider creating a web app, which looks and behaves similar to a native app when the customer adds it to their Home screen. Refer to the Configuring Web Applications section of the Safari Web Content Guide for more information.

You will experience a delayed review process if you deliberately disregard the App Store Review Guidelines, ignore previous rejection feedback in future app submissions, or use your app to mislead or deceive users.

Important Information

As a result of violating this guideline, your app’s review has been delayed. Future submissions of this app, and other apps associated with your Apple Developer account, will also experience a delayed review. Deliberate disregard of the App Store Review Guidelines and attempts to deceive users or undermine the review process are unacceptable and is a direct violation Section 3.2(f) of the Apple Developer Program License Agreement. Continuing to violate the Terms & Conditions of the Apple Developer Program will result in the termination of your account, as well as any related or linked accounts, and the removal of all your associated apps from the App Store.

We want to provide a safe experience for users to get apps and a fair environment for all developers to be successful. If you believe we have misunderstood or misinterpreted the intent of your app, you may submit an appeal for consideration or provide additional clarification by responding directly to this message in Resolution Center in iTunes Connect.

For app design information, check out the following videos: "Best Practices for Great iOS UI Design" and "Designing Intuitive User Experiences," available on the Apple Developer website.

You may also want to review the iOS Human Interface Guidelines for more information on how to create a great user experience in your app.

This response has a different tone, a lot more information, and several links to delve deeper. Information that would have been helpful to have before you build an app. These hidden guidelines could be seen as a hidden agenda however, we don’t feel Apple has any malicious intent. If you’re going to create something that is for everyone, like Apple has, it needs to be policed and held accountable for it’s content. Knowing and understanding this position will give you the tools you need to make informed decisions about your app’s direction and your business model. 

Read more about the crack down on “Spam” apps at TechCrunch - “Apple goes after clones and spam on the App Store” - June 21, 2017 - https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/21/apple-goes-after-clones-and-spam-on-the-app-store/

New App Rejections

We’ve also encountered restrictions imposed by the App Store that have been completely unforeseen and unvalidated by the review team. For example, we recently created an app that would detect a users device UDID ( unique device identifier ) for easily and securely providing device information. This UDID is required to distribute test apps to clients before they’re submitted to the App Store. After maintaining direct discussions with the App Review Team for over a month we were simply told that Apple will “no longer support the device UDID”. No other information would be given. An odd statement considering it’s still needed when distributing an app for testing via methods like Fabric’s Crashlytics or Apple’s own TestFlight service. The bottom line is that Apple has the final say in what they allow on their platform.

See Step 1 in Apple's guide: “Exporting Your App for Testing (iOS, tvOS, watchOS)” - https://developer.apple.com/library/content/documentation/IDEs/Conceptual/AppDistributionGuide/TestingYouriOSApp/TestingYouriOSApp.html

Lessons Learned

The lesson learned is simple. Whether your app has been in the store for years or it’s a brand new submission, Apple will no longer let it sneak by. It needs to be unique, be thoroughly tested, and have regular updates that are unique and thoroughly tested. Oh, and don't do anything they don't want you to do. 

Despite these challenges we’ve managed to work within these guidelines and have successfully lunched and continue to maintain many apps in the App Store today. From automotive to marketing, lifestyle to health & nutrition, we’ve cultivated the knowledge to get apps in the store. 

Have questions or concerns on your app or the App Store? Lets us know, we can help!

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Derek Meiresonne

Derek answers the phone sometimes, codes a lot in Xcode, and likes staying healthy.