Worried Apple will reject YOUR app?
If you’re hearing whispers that Apple’s new Review Guidelines make it IMPOSSIBLE to get an app approved…
Don’t panic. They’re simply not true.
Today’s developer forecast is 🌞 with a good chance of 💰💰💰
What Apple IS doing, is cleaning house and rejecting apps that don’t meet their standards.
“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.” – Apple
Apple is saying “enough is enough.”
Keep reading to learn what “App Spam” is all about, how to handle rejections, and the 5 steps to guarantee your app gets approved.
What is “App Spam?”
The rejection that has app developers blowing gaskets is Guideline 4.3 – Design: Spam. Meaning, the app submitted is not good enough for Apple’s standards.
Apple’s definition of Spam is:
- Apps that are not particularly useful, unique, or “app-like.”
- Publishing multiple versions of an app within similar themes.
- Piling on a category that is already saturated.
If you’re planning on publishing 20 dog breed emoji apps or developing another Egypt/Vegas Casino app, expect a Rejected notice in your Inbox.
Below are answers to frequently talked about Spam Rumors:
* Apple has banned the use of App Templates *
FALSE: Apple is NOT using AI software to sweep for App Templates. In fact, templates are allowed and recommended for app developers.
Use app templates as the foundation of your project and build ‘on top’ of templates whenever possible to create a unique and custom experience for the user.
* Apple will not approve skins *
TRUE: The skin era is over. If you’re looking to make easy money with apps, skinning is not going to work.
* You cannot publish multiple emoji apps *
FALSE: You can publish multiple emoji apps. Just don’t publish multiple emoji apps of a similar theme. For example, if you want to create an emoji network of dog breeds – Apple will recommend you submit a single app and provide the variations using in-app purchases.
For more info on Apple’s Emoji/Sticker Guidelines, visit (Section 4.4: Extensions): https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/#design
5 Steps to Guarantee Your App Gets Approved
Step 1: Follow Apple’s Review Guidelines
Apple does have A LOT of guidelines, but they’re mostly no-brainers and easy to follow.
Research the exact guidelines App Reviewers use before submitting your app: https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/
Step 2: Be the First & Provide Value
The easiest way to get your app approved is to submit unique and quality products that serve a specific need to improve the lives of mobile users.
Do your research and strive to be the first to publish a unique feature or concept.
Step 3: Go Above What is Required
Apple rewards developers who go above the minimal requirements needed to submit an app. Use the development and marketing options Apple makes available whenever possible.
Although Apple only requires 1 screenshot, we are allowed to submit 5.
You only need to include a few words in your app’s description, but Apple allows for 4000 characters.
Promotional text, video previews, and marketing URLs are ALL optional.
But the more you show Apple you have invested in the project, the more likely your app will be approved.
Step 4: Monitor your Submission Volume & Frequency
Stick to quality over quantity.
Apple does monitor the amount of apps and how often you submit. Developers using app builders and submitting multiple apps in a short timespan are risking getting rejected.
Step 5: Include Review Notes that Support All the Above
Add as much information about your app as possible for the review process. Include information needed to test your app, such as app-specific settings.
In many cases, I will even include an attachment video of how to use an app.
Handling Rejections (and the 4Rs)
Rejections DO happen.
In most cases, developers simply forget to include a vital piece of information or fully test their app.
The #1 rejection Apple Developers see is Guideline 2.1 – Performance: App Completeness. Meaning, the app submitted is incomplete or does not work.
In fact, 25% of all app rejections are due to Guideline 2.1.
It’s also not uncommon for Apple to make an error. Apple employees human reviewers which sometimes leads to human error.
Lucky for us, we can write the resolution center, file a dispute, and even call Apple directly.
If you get a rejection, follow the 4Rs:
My favorite “Reach-out” method is to contact Apple by phone. Apple offers worldwide developer support and they’re very responsive (you’re not going to be put on hold for hours).
You can give them a ring here: https://developer.apple.com/contact/phone/
While not perfect, Apple is doing a great job reviewing apps and I for one am thankful they are improving their review efforts to make room for better apps.
Thank you Apple!
Thank you for the opportunity to move to San Francisco and learn a new up-and-coming industry.
Thank you for the ability to support myself while traveling abroad for over 8 months!
Thank you for connecting me with thousands of new friends around the world.
And thank you for consistently testing my limits so I deliver the BEST app experience and service to the mobile community.
I’m up for the challenge and ready to step-up my game!
Best wishes and happy reviews,
PS: If you have questions or comments about Apple’s new Review Guidelines or app rejections in general…drop a comment below and we’ll be sure to answer!
Hey Mark! Great article covering a topic that has been causing a lot of us a lot of worry. Thanks!
@Michelle – Thanks for the feedback! Rejections are not something to worry about, especially if you are a new developer. Apple is only looking for those trying to flood the market and cut corners.
Hi Mark, great article, but I do believe you are incorrect regarding similar apps, and that is where a lot of developer concerns currently lie.
This statement you mention
“FALSE: You can publish multiple emoji apps. Just don’t publish multiple emoji apps of a similar theme. For example, if you want to create an emoji network of dog breeds – Apple will recommend you submit a single app and provide the variations using in-app purchases.”
Actually, is incorrect, because what will happen is, you can make emoji apps, let’s say;
App 1 = Emoji Dogs
App 2 = Emoji Cats
App 3 = Emoji Zombies
App 4 = Emoji Weather Icons
They will expect you to create ONE ‘container’ app, and have each additional theme as an in-app purchase, regardless of the fact nobody searching for Cat emojis, wants zombie emojis… And so on… This is an example, but is true, check out the developers voicing concerns over on iPhoneDevSDK & Apple Developer Forums on the 4.3 guideline.
I wrote Apple for input on your article’s statement that “templates are allowed and recommended for app developers.”
Apple wrote back by citing Section 4.2.6 of the App Store Review Guidelines:
“Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected.” http://imgur.com/gExomib
Apple has explicitly told many BlueCloud members, “Utilizing a template to submit apps is not appropriate for the App Store,” and rejected apps made with BlueCloud source codes that developers have modified and built on top of as BlueCloud recommended. http://imgur.com/jc5Crlt
Since BlueCloud members have shared info about dozens of app rejections and app removals on the BlueCloud Select Facebook group, and shared screenshots of Apple’s statements, why do you state that “templates are recommended?”
Don’t you think that, based on Apple’s own statements and actions, Apple has in fact banned the use of app templates? Is there really a difference between “utilizing” and “using”?
There is a lot of content in this article that is valuable, but this particular section goes against the experience of many BlueCloud members that we have shared over the last couple months. It also goes against the statements that Apple has included in their review notes as well as their developer guidelines.
I think it’s important to consider revising this section of the blog post to at least include reference to the text of Apple’s developer guidelines and rejection notices. Then people can decide for themselves whether Apple’s Guidelines are “fact” or “rumor.”
When I wrote this post, I knew a lot of developers would disagree with my stance. Which is great! Let’s open the discussion in a public forum. We’re all here to better our business and learn 🙂
The post above is reflective of my experiences from the last 5 years of developing apps with hard consideration to the most recent change in the Apple review process.
I’m not promoting any services, products, or courses in the post. Everything I’ve stated in the post is what I truly believe works, and what has worked for me and those I work with.
Templates: templates work for A LOT of people. And they’ll keep working, in every market: “it’s the natural evolution of any industry. People don’t completely reinvent the wheel, door, and engine every time they build a car. Similarly, you don’t have to reinvent the logic behind many functions every time you want to write then…
However, very simply put, many people want to make easy money, which isn’t gonna work…”
Templates will not work if you are manipulating the system – mass producing apps, skinning, publishing low quality projects, creating apps just to sell on other platforms (to name a few). Be unique, create quality projects, make people’s lives better, and…
please post a similar article for andriod apps also .
Aloha Mark.. Super article but just one thing that was in error…
You are no longer allowed to publish multiple emoji or apps anymore without significant code changes as well as graphics, which raises the bar for us new indie developers in terms of cost. But don’t worry there’s an easy fix which I’ll share with you very shortly! 🙂
Right on Adrian! Look forward to learning more about your methods.
Great article man!
Hi Mark and all,
How is Brett Wharton able to get apps approved which are re-skins of his fully spammed app template. Recently I’ve seen the following two approved from Brett:
There is size difference in ipa of these two and also screenshot difference. Has he changed his code with different class names and method + variable names in order cheat the review process?
I guess Apple is using some automation method to recognize duplicate apps as the reviewer himself can’t do comparison with other million of apps live on the app store. So if we handle that AI system from Apple, apps will get through the 4.3 design spam guideline.
Please throw some light on this.
Apple approved these apps earlier in the year before they updated their policies. I had the apps set to Pending Developer Release and then released them over time throughout the year.
I’m actually discontinuing production of cheaper reskins. Even though most people only want to pay $100-300 for an app, it’s not really possible to make the quality of apps that Apple demands on that budget. Nowadays I’m encouraging clients to spend $2k-5k to build higher quality products. The first app that I made at a higher quality level actually yielded a decent profit in its first month – $1,300 revenue against $800 ad spend for a profit of $500.