In this post, we will highlight the important agreements and guidelines and link a few resources we think could help you get started with your App Store journey.
Apple’s App Store is a great place to find high-quality apps because of its emphasis on safety, positive user experience, and an overall customer-centric approach. Launched in 2008, the App Store currently hosts roughly 2.22 million iOS apps (2021) making it the second largest app store following Google Play. Like the Google Play Store, the App Store requires developers to adhere to their stated agreements and guidelines as a condition precedent to using the platform.
In this post, we will highlight the important agreements and guidelines and link a few resources we think could help you get started with your App Store journey. Click here to find our Developer Guide to Google Play Policies.
Understanding App Store’s Developer program
The Apple Developer Program is a fee-based subscription that allows developers to create, test, and publish apps for iOS-based devices to the App Store. As Apple’s self-described “Code to Customer” pipeline, membership allows you to access the latest beta builds, access to comprehensive services allowing you to leverage apples hardware, software, services, and capabilities to create apps with an enhanced user experience, test out your app through TestFlight, distribute your app worldwide, learn about user engagement through app analytics, troubleshoot with the help of Apples support engineers, and access to a myriad of other tools and resources. Click here for information on enrolment. It is worth noting that while Apple charges developers an annual fee, it is a one-time registration payment at Google Play.
An overview of the App Store’s Agreements and guidelines
If you want to publish and distribute your app on the App Store, you need to comply with certain terms and conditions while developing and designing your software. Let’s take a look at some of these requirements:
- Agreements: Your membership to the Apple Developer program is governed by the terms and obligations set forth in the Apple Developer Program License Agreement. While the length of this document might seem daunting to some, not all of it will apply to you and its application will depend on the nature of app you are developing. Other important agreements include those governing the use of the Apple Developer website, App Store Connect, TestFlight, Apple Discussion Forums, and other program-specific agreements. Click here for a list of agreements.
- Guidelines: below is a quick list of guidelines with which to comply:
- App Store Review Guidelines: These guidelines contain requirements arranged into five clear sections: Safety, Performance, Business, Design, and Legal. Your app and/or app update must comply with each of these so as to avoid being rejected at the time of review.
- Human Interface Guidelines: These guidelines provide the developer with the necessary guidance and UI resources for designing apps that integrate seamlessly with Apple platforms. The guidelines cover areas including accessibility, media playback and AirPlay, Apple Pay, Augmented Reality, Game Centre, Siri, and much more.
- Marketing Resources and Identity Guidelines: as the name suggests, these guidelines are intended to help you promote your app’s availability on the App Store. They deal with the use of badges, product images, custom photography and video, messaging style, and legal requirements to be fulfilled.
- Guidelines for using Apple Trademarks and Copyrights: You are not allowed to use Apple’s trademarks, service marks, and images without Apple’s written consent. These guidelines set forth the authorised and unauthorised uses and rules for proper use of Apple’s logo and other marks in your marketing and reference materials, websites, products, and packaging. For information on the use of copyrighted material (photos, Apple Ads, Etc.), developers can submit their queries to Apple’s Rights & Permissions team.
- Other Guidelines: In addition to the aforementioned guidelines, there are a few others developers may need to review depending on the functionality of their apps. This includes the Promotional Artwork Guidelines, Apple Pay Marketing Guidelines, Acceptable Use Guidelines for Apple Pay on the Web, and the Add to Apple Pay Wallet Guidelines.
Apple updates each of these from time to time. The English versions are up-to-date, while translations are provided merely for the purpose of convenience.
How does Apple look out for the kids?
The “Kids Category” is a great place for your app if it is designed for children, is safe, and complies with the relevant privacy laws and guidelines. It is similar to Google Play’s Designed for Families Program. Below is a list of important Guidelines to understand and implement:
- Kids Category [Guideline 1.3]: your goal is to create a great experience specifically for younger users. To ensure a safe space for children, do not send personally identifiable information or device information to third parties, and do not include third-party analytics or third-party advertising.
- Appropriate Metadata [Guideline 2.3.8]: your app’s icons, screenshots and previews should adhere to a 4+ age rating regardless of your target audience.
- Privacy [Guideline 5.1 (5.1.4 specifically)]: Apple encourages you to carefully review all the requirements for complying with laws like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”), the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), and any other applicable regulations or laws.
Submitting your app to App Review: things you should know
Your app (or update) requires a stamp of approval from an Apple employee from the department known as App Review, organised under the marketing umbrella at Apple. Below are a few points on what to expect:
- Step 1: Familiarise yourself with the Apple Program License Agreement, App Store Review Guidelines, and design guidelines. We have discussed these in prior sections.
- Step 2: You need to provide the requested app review information accurately, and make sure your app is complete prior to publication. See app Store Connect Help and Guideline 2.1 (performance) of the Review Guidelines.
- Step 3: Your app is likely to be rejected for crashes and bugs, broken links, inaccurate screenshots, a substandard UI, and so on. Click here for a list of common pitfalls to avoid.
- Step 4: After you’ve reviewed step 1-3 above and submitted your app for review, you can track its status in the My Apps section of App Store Connect or on the App Store Connect App for iPhone and iPad. Typically, you will see one of three things:
- A red status indicator ( ): you need to perform some action before your app can be available on the App Store.
- A yellow status indicator ( ): which means that some process is on-going, controlled either by you or by Apple.
- A green status indicator ( ): your app is ready for Sale.
- Step 5: If your app is rejected, you can correspond with Apple’s Resolution Centre for more information before you resubmit the build to App Review. Click here to learn more.you also have the option to appeal to the App Review Board.
While the time taken to review each app will differ, the average reported duration is between 24 and 48 hours. Google play, on the other hand, follows a less stringent process allowing for apps to be reviewed as quickly as within a couple of hours.
In addition to the resources linked above, below is a collection of helpful links to provide you with the tools to build better apps and keep yourself up-to-date:
- Contact Apple Developer Support
- Apple Developer Forum
- Support articles
- News and Updates
- Apple Developers on Facebook
- MacRumors Forums
- Stack Overflow
- Ray Wenderlich Forums
Karleen De Mello, Policy & Legal Consultant, EkStep Foundation
Hita Kumar, Program Manager - Policy & Partnerships, EkStep Foundation