App Store Review Guidelines: updated rules 2021

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Mobile Development
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In early June Apple updated the App Store Review Guideline. This change was due particularly to the increasing number of scams, fraudulent activity, and app developers’ wrongdoings. According to the Washington Post, approximately 2% of the 1000 highest-grossing applications in App Store were identified as scams and cost end-users $48 million as reported by Appfigures. 

These events led to applications being deleted that violated community rules and the newly upgraded Review Guidelines which affect applications publishers in the App Store. 

Primary updates in App Store Review Guidelines 

The latest Guidelines update was enacted as a response to the rise of scam apps, but the following can also be highlighted:

  • Apple established rules involving “hookup” apps that proposed any adult materials be prohibited in the App Store, as there were previous underlying issues with this sector;
  • Content generated by users, whenever possible, should have definitive rules so content blocking or content moderation is an ongoing feature;
  • It is now possible for legal cannabis dispensaries to make addressed in-app sales if a license is provided;
  • A newly developed category of apps for reporting criminal activities should cooperate with local law enforcement and will be offered in countries only where such involvement is permissible;
  • Bait ads are a reason for removal from the App Store and Apple Developer program.
  • It is now clarified that developers have the ability to communicate with customers via email, but shouldn’t make customers acquired through the App Store use purchase methods other than in-app purchase.
  • Added drinking game apps as a saturated category. But we suppose that the App Store is already filled with drinking games now. 
  • Apps with an account creation process should also provide the ability to delete accounts.

What is “App Tracking Transparency”?

Privacy tracking issues are at the forefront of discussion globally as it relates to technology. A great many businesses globally utilize user information for analysis to make their product better, on other hand, this information can be sold and then become a problem for users. The most recent leak is 700 million users from Linkedin. As a result, Apple makes a new section for App info in the App Store “App Privacy”.

Most new reason of reject is not or wrong using of new framework “App Tracking Transparency”

“You must use the AppTrackingTransparency framework if your app collects data about end users and shares it with other companies for purposes of tracking across apps and web sites. The AppTrackingTransparency framework presents an app-tracking authorization request to the user and provides the tracking authorization status.” Source: developer.apple.com.

With iOS 14.5 in order to access given following data the developer must request such permissions, as:

  • Tracking user location, health data, financial state, any other personally-identifying information.
  • Any user data generated by activities such as emails, messages, calendar data, contacts, gameplay information, Apple Music activity, HomeKit data, and audio, video, and photo content.
  • Bluetooth peripherals, HomeKit features, Wi-Fi connections, and local network settings, and more.
  • Hardware capabilities that impact privacy such as microphones and cameras.

A new requirement is also to fulfill the App privacy section for new/updated apps in the App Store. Developers must provide details on what user data they collect and why this information is displayed on the application page in the App Store. This information could be provided or changed by utilizing App Store Connect at any time.

“You’ll need to provide information about your app’s privacy practices, as well as the practices of third-party partners whose code you integrate into your app.” Source: developer.apple.com.


Let’s see if your application can pass the App Store review.
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The most common problems with App Store Review in 2021

  • In-App purchases
  • Mobile website look like an app
  • Applications with the same functionality and design

In-App purchases

It is still one of the oldest reasons for app rejection. A popular example is Epic Games vs Apple trial. The primary Epic Games application Fortine was kicked from the App Store when Epic Games tried to bypass In-App Purchases guidelines. App Store was getting 30% of revenue for each In-App purchase.

In December 2020, largely due to increasing pressure Apple announced that they would be lowering fees for app developers making $1M or less from 30% to 15%  developers only need to fill out an application for the lowered revenue cut.

In the App Store, you are able to download about 1.8 million apps. And 1% of the top apps generates 93% of the revenue across the App Store and Google’s Play Store

Any digital goods in the app should be sold via In-App Purchase. If you offer real goods or services you can use any other payment methods, e.x. Apple Pay or integration with third parties such as Stripe, Vipps.

Mobile websites look like apps

A lot of businesses want to create applications inexpensively and quickly and often skip the design stage as a result most mobile applications look like mobile websites. It is a really common issue, is that a lot of applications have been removed from the App Store as they used Web View to present business websites from within the application. When developing an application developers need to pay attention to UI Guidelines.

Applications with the same functionality and design

We faced this rejection for the first time last year. A client reached out to us and described a problem where they had few applications that shared a UI but had very different functionalities. In this case, the best way to succeed is to write a cover letter where you as a developer detail the primary differences between Apps and also provide a video displaying how your app works exactly.

If your application was rejected

You can always reach the Reviewers Team and discuss reasons for rejection by using the Resolution Center. Information about rejection can be found there too.
If the reason is straightforward enough just fix it and resubmit. It can also be rejected because of trademark use or images of low quality, as well as the inability to login to the App, and so on.
The first reasons that are displayed in the Resolution Center could be general and not specific at the same time. Try to reach Apple for clarification and google similar cases.

Reviewers are also humans and can make mistakes. If you are sure that rejection is a mistake in their decision, keep writing to Reviewers.

Axon Development Group
July 14, 2021
Mobile Development

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