We all know that getting an iOS app approved isn't always an easy process.
- It's our job to make sure that Apple approves Twixl apps on a technical level.
- It's the job of the publisher to make sure that Apple approves the general concept and functionality of the app.
This KB-article provides some tips & tricks for the latter.
Setting the standard
You may wonder why it is sometimes complicated to get your app approved by Apple or why Apple gets involved all in what you are publishing in your app.
But you really value that your app can be distributed via the App Store, because you know it is a respected, secure and reliable platform.
One reason why the platform is so successful is because it has high quality standards. Users appreciate iOS apps because they work, because they are nice, because they add value!
Apple defined guidelines for apps to be published on their platform just because they want to guarantee a top quality products to their users.
High quality standards are part of their identity!
So if we accept there is a need for a third party to distribute our app, we have to accept they impose rules (guidelines) we have to comply with.
If we don’t want to comply or don’t want to publish on the App Store, we can just publish internally.
We use the word ‘rules', Apple uses ‘guidelines’, and it is indeed more about guidelines because the approval process is a human process.
An app you submit will run through some automated tests, but human reviewers will test the app and verify
- the user interface
- the user experience
- all the features and services you offer in your app
This is also the reason the same type of app might be approved in Spain and not in the US. Every team has its own agenda, approach and interpretation of the guidelines, which makes it sometimes frustrating, but the quality standard is what counts.
Basically, it’s like you are a car manufacturer. You are building a car and you want that buyers of your car can drive it on public roads. For this you have to comply with legislation by country where you want your customers to drive your car.
So when you design your car you take into account those regulations. You don’t just build your car and check afterwards how to comply with regulations.
If you want to create an app you want to distribute via the App Store, the approach needs to be similar.
Start by reading the App Store Review Guidelines and make sure that everything in your app complies with these guidelines. Our advice is also to examine the Human Interface Guidelines, this will help you with the design of the interface of your app, and help you define the concept.
IN THE CASE OF A REJECTED APP:
Keep in mind that once your app gets rejected, it may be more difficult to change Apple’s mind when you resubmit. Some small changes will not be sufficient, so depending on the problem Apple refers to, it may require major changes.
Why your app might be rejected
Here’s an overview of the most common reasons why your app can be rejected. Keep these in mind: better safe than sorry!
If your app just plays a song or video, displays a brochure or just one story, then it’s considered too simple to justify it being an app. Apps shouldn’t primarily be marketing materials, advertisements, web clippings, content aggregators, or a collection of links.
Apple says: “Apps that are simply a song or movie should be submitted to the iTunes Store. Apps that are simply a book should be submitted to the iBooks Store.”
There is one type of app that can offer ‘only’ content. This is a news or magazine app. This is accepted by the App Store but any other type of app has to bring an extra value to the user. You can’t just make an app of a brochure presenting your product. You could present different products, with extensive technical information, with interactive presentation features. You could also offer extra services in your app.
Always ask yourself why you would like to have this app on your phone/tablet and what it would take to make you use it frequently. If you don’t, you’ll understand why your app may be rejected.
This is about the same as the previous item. Mobile is an interactive medium. Users expect interactivity. Slide shows, video and audio content. You should add services, things users can do with your app, that make things easier for them, more convenient. Things unique to the medium.
Before defining the navigation and browse pages of your app, we invite you to first check Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines. They’ll provide a good baseline on how to design your user interface properly. Also understand that the term user interface is a broad concept. The layout of supporting materials related to content are also important.
Apple and your users place a high value on simple, refined, creative, well thought out interfaces. They take more work but are worth it. Apple sets a high standard. If your user interface is complex or less than very good, it may be rejected.
“Your app should include features, content, and a UI that elevate it beyond a repackaged website. If your app is not particularly useful, unique, or app-like, it doesn’t belong in the App Store.”
You are creating a native iOS app, not a web app. A native app is about offering an app-like behavior that supports the functionalities of the device. It is not about a click behavior of a website.
There is a huge difference between a web app and a native app. A web app offers a web experience. While you can create a web experience within a native app, Apple may reject this because there is no added value for having an app if it is ‘just’ a website.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have any web content in your app, on the contrary, you can combine both if it adds value, but you shouldn’t create an app with only web content or an app that is just a copy of your website.
Imagine you create travel guides, and for each travel guide you create a separate app. Well, Apple will get back to you and ask you to combine all those guides in one app. You might think you’ll get less exposure but on the contrary. Offering an answer to far more search requests you’ll get a better ranking and it will be easier to create brand awareness.
If you have different similar apps or are submitting different similar apps, Apple will always ask you to combine them in one app because it just offers more value to your users and to yourself.
You need to:
- provide an explanation of your data retention policies
- enable users to withdraw consent to data collection
- include a direct link to Support along with contact information
It’s very important that your app only requests permissions that it needs to function. This includes permission to send push notifications, to use the device camera, GPS, the user’s location and more. If your app requires location services, it is important to explain why your app needs access to it.
“Apps that contain false, fraudulent or misleading representations or use names or icons similar to other apps will be rejected.”
Apple requires apps to be unique with their names, icons or interface and discourages imitation of any other apps.
In particular, Apple is very sensitive if you get tempted to use buttons or user interface components in your app that are theirs.
Also, don’t mention other supported platforms: if you have an Android app, that’s fine, but don’t promote it in your iOS app.
One of the most frustrating things for anyone on the receiving end of an app and in this case for Apple’s review team is to find placeholder content still in there. The same thing with demo content or beta content.
This is a sign that your mobile app is incomplete and wasn’t ready to be submitted yet. It will also give reviewers an extra reason to dig deeper and maybe find more things wrong with it.
If you need to use such content during the development process, make sure it is extremely well recognizable during testing so you can replace it by the real content before submitting your app.
Per Apple’s guidelines, your app must work on all the latest systems; i.e. hardware and software. It is important that apps run on all types of iPads and iPhones, at least if your app is ‘universal’, so keep that in mind for your tests.
Apple also recommends apps support split-screen usage, which Twixl will offer with TP11.
Twixl will always make sure to support the latest Apple software and hardware, so this is more an issue for Twixl than it is for you, unless you forget to update your app regularly. If your app has not been updated for a long time, you could get into a situation where Apple will come back to you and ask you to update your app, and if you don’t, it could even be removed from the store.
A major requirement for apps in the App Store is that they have the metadata. That means including screenshots, descriptions, etc.
The main problems that can occur with metadata are:
- incomplete submission form
- incorrect or insufficient description
- not providing a demo login account
- outdated contact information
- missing or incorrect imagery
- inappropriate rating
- unrelated keywords
In relation to the screenshots you need to submit at least 3 different sizes, iPhone 5,5”, iPhone 6,5” and iPad 12,9”. If you don’t have the required devices to create all these screenshots, note that you can always make screenshots in the iOS simulator.
Be very careful with the amount of data your users need to download before they can get access to your app. If it takes over 15 seconds, your app may be rejected.
Therefore you should never use our ‘full offline mode’ on apps you submit to the App Store.
Offline mode is for in-house apps, as you are then in an environment where you are fully in control.
If your app does get rejected, don’t get discouraged and do try to understand Apple’s motive. It’ll often be in your own interest. Try to address the issue Apple is referring to, and resubmit your app, but be thorough in your work.
Everybody makes mistakes and even the most experienced developers have had their app rejected from time to time.
Out of our own experience, we can tell you that while you can try to make your case with Apple, it’s not a good idea to start to argue with Apple review. You can ask for more information, but then it is up to you to work on the remarks that Apple provides.
Oh yes, we didn’t mention Google and submitting apps to Google Play. Well, the process is about the same, but Google is less strict in controlling their guidelines than Apple is. This is also why the Google Play store is perceived as having slightly lower quality standards than Apple’s App Store.