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Apple Releases Latest Changes to App Store Review Guidelines

Apple Releases Latest Changes to App Store Review Guidelines

On June 7th, Apple released its latest round of App Store Review Guidelines, which sets forth the rules for developers to abide by to publish their app.

Many of the changes are geared towards apps that facilitate fraud and scams, but there are some notable changes that developers should take notice of.

You can find the entire document on the Apple Developer site, but we’ll pull out a few key points:

Changes to Allowable Content

Apple is cracking down on apps that “behave[s] in a way that risks physical harm.”

Notable examples include:

  1. Medical apps are now required to “remind users to check with a doctor in addition to using the app and before making medical decisions,” (1.4.1).
  2. Drug dosage calculators must come from a legally recognized medical entity or have FDA approval (1.4.2).

Apple is also removing apps that encourage substance use, particularly those marketed to minors.

Any apps that encourage or support the use of tobacco or vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive alcohol are no longer permitted on the app store, regardless of the target demographic. For this purpose, Apple does include marijuana under illegal drugs unless very particular requirements are met (1.4.3).

With the constantly shifting landscape over the legality of marijuana, both on a state and federal level, Apple goes on to concede that apps that facilitate the legal sale of marijuana, such as those developed by dispensaries, are allowed but only if they are submitted by the dispensary itself (not the developer).

The app is also required to be geo-restricted to the legal jurisdiction where the dispensary is located.

User Protection from Misleading Marketing

Apple’s main game when it comes to this set of guidelines puts a hard focus on calling out anyone who aims to scam their users, and they go into detail about all the different ways that the few bad apples in the developer basket might pull a fast one on consumers:

  1. All apps must be complete before submission to the app store, which includes apps available for pre-order (2.1).
  2. Developers must clearly outline any change to features and functions in the app notes. More specifically, “…marketing your app in a misleading way, such as by promoting content or services that it does not actually offer (e.g., iOS-based virus and malware scanners) or promoting a false price, whether within or outside of the App Store, is grounds for removal of your app from the App Store and termination of your developer account,” (2.3.1).
  3. If your app includes in-app purchases, you have to be very transparent about which features require those purchases. Promoting a paid feature without noting that it costs is not allowed (2.3.2).

Apple specifies that “egregious or repeated behavior” gives them the right to pull any developer from the Apple Developer Program.

Social Network Access and Account Creation

Most of section 5 covers the privacy changes we’ve talked about in previous blogs, but there are a couple of notable differences.

Section 5.1.1(v) details the new requirements for accounts, login information, and social media integration.

To summarize:

  1. No app is allowed to require login or account sign-in to function unless it includes “significant account-based features.”
  2. No app can require a social network login unless the core app functionality depends on it. Even then, users must have access to revoke app permissions easily.
  3. Any app that allows account creation must also offer account deletion within the app. For example, users cannot be forced to log in via desktop browser or call customer service to cancel their accounts.

Changes to App Store Review Guidelines Developer Code of Conduct

Apple rounds out its guidelines with specific instructions to developers regarding their behavior regarding reviews, customer support, or communicating directly with Apple.

Developers can meet those expectations by:

  1. Treating customers with respect in response to app reviews and avoiding including marketing in those responses. Additionally, only Apple’s integrated API is allowed when prompting users to review (5.6.1).
  2. Developers must represent themselves, their business, and their apps accurately. All information must be relevant and up-to-date (5.6.2).
  3. Manipulating data, charts, search reviews, and referrals are not permitted (5.6.3).
  4. Any app or developer that receives “excessive customer reports,” including negative reviews or refund requests, is liable to be removed from the app store (5.6.4).

With all of the changes Apple has made to their iOS and Developer Program guidelines, it’s tough to keep up with all the changes.

NATIV3 can keep you in the loop.

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