How to Get App Store Approval?
Over the last few weeks we told you where to start with app development, why build an MVP and where to find investors to get your idea off the ground. But it’s also important to make sure your App Store submission is accepted. How to build an iOS application that will definitely get the green light without losing quality and its core features? Is it possible to cheat Apple in this or that way? Read on to find out!
An insight into the App Store review guidelines
Apple is very particular about software quality & user experience, and the strict policy bears its fruit. Even though Google outperforms Apple in terms of downloads, the App Store generates 75% more in revenues. The iOS-first dev trend is still huge. Apple is a golden mine for developers. And vendors do their best to meet the company’s high standards.
If you try to bypass its restrictions or do not follow the iOS App Store guidelines, the company won’t accept your masterpiece and might even ban you from developer team.
So, what’s no good for Apple?
Applications get stuck in the “processing for App Store” stage for weeks if they:
- Crash, have bugs, fail to perform the way it was stated or include undocumented features. There is a separate category for trial/beta versions, so make sure your developer follows the TestFlight guidelines;
- Exceed the size limit of 100 MB (compared to 200 MB for tvOS software). According to Data Storage Guidelines, all the data apart from app bundle, temp and cache directories, is backed up. If you intend to store certain files on device, they should be marked with the “do not back up” attribute;
- Employ non-public APIs and download/execute any type of code. And you can’t be too careful with this one. 4 years ago, the company removed the Rogue Amoeba audio recording software for making AirPlay APIs look like they weren’t public, although no violation was detected;
- Are designed for Apple TV and support game controllers, but don not work with the Siri remote (this is especially important for game developers);
- Make use of Apple Push Notification APIs, but do not ask for user consent before delivering notifications. It’s the same with applications that collect and transmit location data, use location APIs to automatically control vehicles or store Universal Device Identifier (UDID) – just like Tweetbot in 2012;
- Display Player ID to other users (for games);
- Stream video content via a cellular network, but run over 10 minutes and do not use HTTP Live Streaming;
- Do not employ MediaPlayer framework and allow access to third-party video and music content sources without proper authentication.
What App Store entries will never get an approval?
- Copy-cats of existing mobile apps (especially when there are many of them). Remember the killer fart app? iOS developers even tried to push one on Apple Watch, but eventually failed. Sometimes vendors get accused of plagiarism simply because they name apps after popular franchises. After the Flappy Bird game hit #1 on iTunes, Apple started to reject applications with the names like “Flappy Bee” and “Flappy Dragon”, although their content was original;
- Apps that promote drug/alcohol usage and violence, or simply “cross the line” (like Obama Trampoline);
- Child-unfriendly content. In 2013, the updated 500px app was removed from the store because it allowed access to nude photos (in fact, the latest version of the app made the search more difficult, and it wasn’t porn anyway). The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth application was rejected by Apple because it “depicts violence against children”. The game is actually based on the Abraham & its son story from the Bible;
- Videos, songs and books (you’ve got iTunes and iBooks after all);
- Apps that contain Apple-owned graphic images, names and their variations.
Advertising & in-app purchases
The iOS App Store developer guidelines urge you not to submit:
- Programs which are primarily meant to advertise goods or display ads (like the AppGratis; the application was removed from the store for using push notifications to deliver ads & promoting mobile software from third-party developers). Also, you cannot sell physical goods inside the store, so any soft that contains links to websites (even if you design a “Buy” button) won’t make the cut;
- Software that automatically increases CTR and the number of ad impressions, as well as applications with empty iAd banners;
- App Store wannabes (the catalogues similar to AppGratis). However, you can promote high-quality applications arranged by categories (education, healthcare, etc.);
- Mobile soft with integrated third-party payment mechanisms like PayPal (that’s how Apple takes 30% of in-app purchase revenues including subscription fees);
- Games selling credits/in-app currency that can be used in the real world;
- Programs that charge users for features provided by Apple for free (like Apple Keyboard or Pencil).
In order to maintain great user experience, the company encourages third-party developers to take advantage of the full screen and build apps that run on different iOS devices. iOS vendors should focus on content and avoid using heavy UI elements which distract user attention (“drop shadows”, for example). Good iOS apps usually feature translucent components and system font and emphasize data with the help of key colors and negative space.
Here’s a brief summary of the App Store UX/UI review guidelines:
- Your app’s layout shouldn’t copy Apple website or services design;
- Applications that change functions of the standard switches (volume and silent ring) are not accepted;
- Mobile software that delivers multi-app widget experience will be rejected;
- An iOS application must not look like it took 3 days to build (the key argument to trust your project to an experienced vendor).
Processing for the App Store: how to deal with Apple restrictions?
The company is rather notorious about observing its guidelines: if you search for Apple cheating tips on the Internet, you’ll hardly discover any.
However, it doesn’t prevent malicious apps from entering the App Store from time to time. A couple of months ago Apple reported its first massive hacker attack: a number of applications that contained XcodeGhost malware made its way to iTunes (including the Chinese version of Angry Birds 2).
What does it mean for businessmen?
You won’t be able to write iOS software in Java, of course. But it’s technically possible to use third-party APIs and frameworks. Provided you address a reliable vendor, you’ll probably find a legal way to enhance your app’s functionality.
Amazon, for example, enabled in-app purchases and catalogue browsing while keeping revenues to themselves. The 2013 version of the Kindle book application allowed access to free book snippets; after a user chose the book, he received an email with a link to the Amazon website where he could buy it.
Once on the App Store, your submission is still a long way from the top. The market is choking with apps. By 2018, less than 1% of them will be successful. It’s no wonder Apple does its best to keep the company’s high profile. Back in 2008, there were only 15 thousand applications on iTunes, and the company didn’t hesitate to get 40 “Days to Christmas” apps on board.
Over the course of 8 years, the developer guidelines have undergone considerable changes (remember Apple’s on-and-off relationships with Adobe Flash?). With Swift and OS 9, we’ll probably have another revision – and sooner than we expect. That’s why you should partner with a vendor who follows Apple trends and cut his teeth on iOS development.