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September 01, 2016

Updated subscription rules, SiriKit, Stickers and more

This update to the App Store Review Guidelines is mostly about the new iOS features SiriKit and Stickers, but also includes the previously promised new rules for subscription based apps. The full diff is listed below, but a few interesting new bits include:

App names must be limited to 50 characters and should not include terms or descriptions that are not the name of the app.

This was also mentioned in the “App Store Improvements” email sent to developers on September 1st and will be enforced for new apps and app updates.

Section 3.2.2 has a new point that I think is worth to notice:

Apps should allow a user to get what they’ve paid for without performing additional tasks, such as posting on social media, uploading contacts, checking in to the app a certain number of times, etc. Apps should not force users to rate the app, review the app, download other apps, or take other similar actions in order to access functionality, content, or use of the app.

Seems to me that many apps and games currently encourage users to rate the app by offering rewards like free coins or similar for doing so. It will be interesting to see if Apple enforce this rule in a way that also prohibits this behavior where users are not forced, but gets rewarded.

And remember that even after your app has been approved, you should update your app to ensure it remains functional and engaging to new and existing customers. Apps that stop working or offer a degraded experience may be removed from the App Store at any time.

Yes Apple will finally start to remove abandoned apps from the App Store. This should be a win for everyone.

  • 2.3 Accurate Metadata
    • 2.3.4 Previews are a great way for customers to see what your app looks like and what it does. To ensure people understand what they’ll be getting with your app, previews may only use video screen captures of the app itself. Stickers and iMessage extensions may show the user experience in the Messages app. You can add narration and video or textual overlays to help explain anything that isn’t clear from the video alone.
    • 2.3.7 Choose a unique app name, assign keywords that accurately describe your app, and don’t try to pack any of your metadata with trademarked terms, popular app names, or other irrelevant phrases just to game the system. App names must be limited to 50 characters and should not include terms or descriptions that are not the name of the app. Apple may modify inappropriate keywords at any time.
  • 2.5 Software Requirements
    • 2.5.11 SiriKit
      • (i) Apps integrating SiriKit should only sign up for intents they can handle without the support of an additional app and that users would expect from the stated functionality. For example, if your app is a meal planning app, you should not incorporate an intent to start a workout, even if the app shares integration with a fitness app.
      • (ii) Ensure that the vocabulary and phrases in your plist pertains to your app and the SiriKit functionality of the intents the app has registered for.
      • (iii) Resolve the Siri request in the most direct way possible and do not insert ads or other marketing between the request and its fulfillment. Only present interstitial UI when required to complete the task (e.g. asking the user to specify a particular type of workout).
  • 3.1 Payments
    • 3.1.2 Subscriptions: Subscriptions: AutoApps may offer auto-renewing subscriptions should only be offered using in-app purchase andsubscriptions, regardless of category on the App Store. When incorporating auto-renewable subscriptions into your app, be sure to follow the guidelines below.
    • Note: We will update these guidelines in the coming weeks for the subscription changes launching this fall
    • 3.1.2(a) Permissible uses: If you offer an auto-renewing subscription, you must provide ongoing value to the customer. While the following list is not exhaustive, examples of appropriate subscriptions include: new game levels; episodic content; multi-player support; apps that offer consistent, substantive updates; access to large collections of, or continually updated, media content; software as a service (“SAAS”); and cloud support. In addition:
      • Subscriptions may only be used for periodicalsbe offered alongside a la carte offerings (e.g. newspapersyou may offer a subscription to an entire library of films as well the purchase or rental of a single movie).
      • You may offer a single subscription that is shared across your own apps, magazines)but these subscriptions may not extend to third party apps or services. Subscriptions must work on all of the user’s devices where the app is available. Learn more about sharing a subscription across your apps.
      • Apps must not force users to rate the app, businessreview the app, download other apps, or other similar actions in order to access functionality, content, or use of the app.
      • As with all apps, those offering subscriptions should allow a user to get what they’ve paid for without performing additional tasks, such as posting on social media, uploading contacts, checking in to the app a certain number of times, etc.
      • Subscriptions may not include consumable credits, gems, in-game currencies, etc., even when combined with other offerings, but you may offer subscriptions that include access to discounted consumable goods (e.g. enterprise, productivity, professional creative, cloud storage), media apps (e.g. video, audio, voice, photo sharing), and other approved services (e.g. dating, dieting, weathera platinum membership that exposes gem-packs for a reduced price). These subscriptions must last a minimum of 7 days and be accessible from all of the user’s devices where the
      • If you are changing your existing app is availableto a subscription-based business model, you should not take away the primary functionality existing users have already paid for. You may offer subscriptions that are shared acrossFor example, let customers who have already purchased a “full game unlock” continue to access the full game after you introduce a subscription model for new customers.
    • 3.1.2(b) Upgrades and Downgrades: Users should have a seamless upgrade/downgrade experience and should not be able to inadvertently subscribe to multiple variations of the same thing. Review best practices on managing your subscription upgrade and downgrade options.
    • 3.1.2(c) Subscription Information: Before asking a customer to subscribe, you should clearly describe what the user will get for the price. How many issues per month? How much cloud storage? What kind of access to your service? Also ensure you clearly communicate the requirements described in Schedule 2 of your agreement in Agreements, Tax, and Banking.
  • 3.2 Other Business Model Issues
    • 3.2.2 Unacceptable
      • (vi) Apps should allow a user to get what they’ve paid for without performing additional tasks, such as posting on social media, uploading contacts, checking in to the app a certain number of times, etc. Apps should not force users to rate the app, review the app, download other apps, or take other similar actions in order to access functionality, content, or use of the app.

    4. Design

    Apple customers place a high value on products that are simple, refined, innovative, and easy to use, and that’s what we want to see on the App Store. Coming up with a great design is up to you, but the following are minimum standards for approval to the App Store. And remember that even after your app has been approved, you should update your app to ensure it remains functional and engaging to new and existing customers. Apps that stop working or offer a degraded experience may be removed from the App Store at any time.

  • 4.4 Extensions
    • 4.4.1 Keyboard extensions have some additional rules.

      They must:

      • Provide keyboard input functionality (e.g. typed characters);
      • Provide a method for progressing to the next keyboard;
      • Remain functional without full network access;
      • Provide Number and Decimal keyboard types as described in the App Extension Programming Guide;
      • Have a primary category of Utilities when the keyboard is the main point of the app; and
      • Collect user activity only to enhance the functionality of the user’s keyboard extension on the iOS device.

      They must not:

      • Include marketing, advertising, or in-app purchases;
      • Launch other apps besides Settings; or
      • Repurpose keyboard buttons for other behaviors (e.g. holding down the “return” key to launch the camera.
    • 4.4.2 Safari extensions must run on the current version of Safari on OS X. They may not interfere with System or Safari UI elements and must never include malicious or misleading content or code. Violating this rule will lead to removal from the Developer Program. Safari extensions should not claim access to more websites than strictly necessary to function.
    • 4.4.3 Stickers

      Stickers are a great way to make Messages more dynamic and fun, letting people express themselves in clever, funny, meaningful ways. Whether your app contains a sticker extension or you’re creating free-standing sticker packs, its content shouldn’t offend users, create a negative experience, or violate the law.

      • (i) In general, if it wouldn’t be suitable for the App Store, it doesn’t belong in a sticker.
      • (ii) Consider regional sensitivities, and do not make your sticker pack available in a country where it could be poorly received or violate local law.
      • (iii) If we don’t understand what your stickers mean, include a clear explanation in your review notes to avoid any delays in the review process.
      • (iv) Ensure your stickers have relevance beyond your friends and family; they should not be specific to personal events, groups, or relationships.
      • (v) You must have all the necessary copyright, trademark, publicity rights, and permissions for the content in your stickers, and shouldn’t submit anything unless you’re authorized to do so. Keep in mind that you must be able to provide verifiable documentation upon request. Apps with sticker content you don’t have rights to use will be removed from the App Store and repeat offenders will be removed from the Developer Program. If you believe your content has been infringed by another provider, submit a claim here.
  • 5.1 Privacy
    • 5.1.1 Data Collection and Storage
      • (i) Apps that collect user or usage data must have a privacy policy and secure user consent for the collection. This includes—but isn’t limited to—apps that implement HealthKit or other health/medical technologies, HomeKit, Keyboard extensions, Apple Pay, Stickers and iMessage extensions, include a login, or access user data from the device (e.g. location, contacts, calendar, etc.).
      • (ii) If your app doesn’t include significant account-based features, let people use it without a log-in. Apps may not require users to enter personal information to function, except when directly relevant to the core functionality of the app or required by law. If your core app functionality is not related to a specific social network (e.g. Facebook, WeChat, Weibo, Twitter, etc.), you must provide access without a login or via another mechanism. Pulling basic profile information, sharing to the social network, or inviting friends to use the app are not considered core app functionality.
      • (iii) Developers that use their apps to surreptitiously discover passwords or other private data will be removed from the Developer Program.
      • (iv)SafariViewContoller must be used to visibly present information to users; the controller may not be hidden or obscured by other views or layers. Additionally, an app may not use SafariViewController to track users without their knowledge and consent.