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June 07, 2021

WWDC 2021

On the back of this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple has updated the App Store Review Guidelines with clarifications of existing guidelines, new prohibitions regarding apps facilitating prostitution and reporting crime activity, and much more.

The complete set of changes can be seen below:


A few other points to keep in mind:

  • If you attempt to cheat the system (for example, by trying to trick the review process, steal user data, copy another developer’s work, manipulate ratings or App Store discovery) your apps will be removed from the store and you will be expelled from the Apple Developer Program.

1. Safety

  • 1.1 Objectionable Content
    • 1.1.4 Overtly sexual or pornographic material, defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “explicit descriptions or displays of sexual organs or activities intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings."” This includes “hookup” apps that may include pornography or be used to facilitate prostitution.
  • 1.2 User -Generated Content
    • 1.2.1 Creator Content
      Apps which feature content from a specific community of users called “creators” are a great opportunity if properly moderated. These apps present a singular, unified experience for customers to interact with various kinds of creator content. They offer tools and programs to help this community of non-developer creators to author, share, and monetize user-generated experiences. These experiences must not change the core features and functionality of the native app—rather, they add content to those structured experiences. These experiences are not native “apps” coded by developers—they are content within the app itself and are treated as user-generated content by App Review. Such creator content may include video, articles, audio, and even casual games. The App Store supports apps offering such user-generated content so long as they follow all Guidelines, including Guideline 1.2 for moderating user-generated content and Guideline 3.1.1 for payments and in-app purchases. Creator apps should share the age rating of the highest age-rated creator content available in the app, and communicate to users which content requires additional purchases.
  • 1.4 Physical Harm

    If your app behaves in a way that risks physical harm, we may reject it. For example:

    • 1.4.3 Apps that encourage consumption of tobacco and vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol are not permitted on the App Store. Apps that encourage minors to consume any of these substances will be rejected. Facilitating the sale of controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies and licensed or otherwise legal cannabis dispensaries), marijuana, or tobacco is not allowed.
  • 1.7 Reporting Criminal Activity

    Apps for reporting alleged criminal activity must involve local law enforcement, and can only be offered in countries where such involvement is active.

2. Performance

  • 2.2 Beta Testing

    Demos, betas, and trial versions of your app don’t belong on the App Store – use TestFlight instead. Any app submitted for beta distribution via TestFlight should be intended for public distribution and should comply with the App Review Guidelines. Note, however, that apps using TestFlight cannot be distributed to testers in exchange for compensation of any kind, including as a reward for crowd-sourced funding. Significant updates to your beta build should be submitted to TestFlight App Review before being distributed to your testers. To learn more, visit the TestFlight Beta Testing page.

  • 2.3 Accurate Metadata
    • 2.3.1 Don’t include any hidden, dormant, or undocumented features in your app; your app’s functionality should be clear to end users and App Review. All new features, functionality, and product changes must be described with specificity in the Notes for Review section of App Review. All new features, functionality, and product changes must be described with specificity in the Notes for Review section of App Store Connect (generic descriptions will be rejected) and accessible for review. Similarly, you shouldmarketing your app in a misleading way, such as by promoting content or services that it does not market your app on the App Store or offline as including 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. Egregious or repeated behavior is grounds for removal from the Apple Developer Program. We work hard to make the App Store a trustworthy ecosystem and expect our app developers to follow suit; if you’re dishonest, we don’t want to do business with you.
    • 2.3.3 Screenshots should show the app in use, and not merely the title art, login page, or splash screen. They may also include text and image overlays (e.g. to demonstrate input mechanisms, such as an animated touch point or Apple Pencil) and show extended functionality on device, such as Touch Bar.
    • 2.3.10 Make sure your app is focused on the iOS, MaciPadOS, Apple TV or Apple WatchmacOS, tvOS or watchOS experience, and don’t include names, icons, or imagery of other mobile platforms in your app or metadata, unless there is specific, approved interactive functionality. Make sure your app metadata is focused on the app itself and its experience. Don’t include irrelevant information, including but not limited to information about Apple or the development process.
  • 2.4 Hardware Compatibility
    • 2.4.4 Apps should never suggest or require a restart of the device or modifications to system settings unrelated to the core functionality of the applicationapp. For example, don’t encourage users to turn off Wi-Fi, disable security features, etc.
    • 2.4.5 Apps distributed via the Mac App Store have some additional requirements to keep in mind:
      • (ii) They must be packaged and submitted using technologies provided in Xcode; no third-party installers allowed. They must also be self-contained, single applicationapp installation bundles and cannot install code or resources in shared locations.
      • (iii) They may not auto-launch or have other code run automatically at startup or login without consent nor spawn processes that continue to run without consent after a user has quit the app. They should not automatically add their icons to the Dock or leave shortcuts on the user desktop.
  • 2.5 Software Requirements
    • 2.5.2 Apps should be self-contained in their bundles, and may not read or write data outside the designated container area, nor may they download, install, or execute code which introduces or changes features or functionality of the app, including other apps. Educational apps designed to teach, develop, or allow students to test executable code may, in limited circumstances, download code provided that such code is not used for other purposes. Such apps must make the source code provided by the Applicationapp completely viewable and editable by the user.
    • 2.5.3 Apps that transmit viruses, files, computer code, or programs that may harm or disrupt the normal operation of the operating system and/or hardware features, including Push Notifications and Game Center, will be rejected. Egregious violations and repeat behavior will result in removal from the Apple Developer Program.

3. Business

If we find that you have attempted to manipulate reviews, inflate your chart rankings with paid, incentivized, filtered, or fake feedback, or engage with third-party services to do so on your behalf, we will take steps to preserve the integrity of the App Store, which may include expelling you from the Apple Developer Program.

  • 3.1 Payments
    • 3.1.1 In-App Purchase:
      • GiftDigital gift cards, certificates, vouchers, and coupons which can be redeemed for digital goods or services can only be sold in your app using in-app purchase. Physical gift cards that are sold within an app and then mailed to customers may use payment methods other than in-app purchase.
    • 3.1.2(a) Permissible uses:
      • Auto-renewing subscription apps may offer a free trial period to customers by providing the relevant information set forth in App Store Connect. Learn more about Subscription Free Trials.
      • Apps that attempt to scam users will be removed from the App Store. This includes apps that attempt to trick users into purchasing a subscription under false pretenses or engage in bait-and-switch and scam practices; these will be removed from the App Store and you may be removed from the Apple Developer Program. Learn more about Subscription Free Trials.
      • Apps that offerCellular carrier apps may include auto-renewing music and video subscriptions with prior approval by Apple may also be included in pre-defined bundles with cellular data plans offered in, with prior approval by Apple. Other auto-renewing subscriptions may also be included in pre-defined bundles with cellular data plans, with prior approval by Apple, if the cellular carrier apps support in-app purchase for new users and the carrier provides a mechanism for customers to revert to in-app purchase upon termination of the customer’s bundled service. Such subscriptions cannot include access to or discounts on consumable items.
    • 3.1.3 Other Purchase Methods: The following apps may use purchase methods other than in-app purchase. Apps in this section cannot, either within the app or through communications sent to points of contact obtained from account registration within the app (like email or text), encourage users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase. Developers cannot use information obtained within the app to target individual users outside of the app to use purchasing methods other than in-app purchase (such as sending an individual user an email about other purchasing methods after that individual signs up for an account within the app). Developers can send communications outside of the app to their user base about purchasing methods other than in-app purchase.
    • 3.1.7 Advertising: Display advertising should be limited to your main app executablebinary, and should not be included in extensions, App Clips, widgets, notifications, keyboards, watchOS apps, etc. Ads displayed in an app must be appropriate for the app’s age rating, allow the user to see all information used to target them for that ad (without requiring the user to leave the app), and may not engage in targeted or behavioral advertising based on sensitive user data such as health/medical data (e.g. from the HealthKit APIs), school and classroom data (e.g. from ClassKit), or from kids (e.g. from apps in the Kids Category), etc. Interstitial ads or ads that interrupt or block the user experience must clearly indicate that they are an ad, must not manipulate or trick users into tapping into them, and must provide easily accessible and visible close/skip buttons large enough for people to easily dismiss the ad.
  • 3.2 Other Business Model Issues
    • 3.2.1 Acceptable
      • (viii) Apps used for financial trading, investing, or money management should come frombe submitted by the financial institution performing such services.

4. Design

  • 4.2 Minimum Functionality

    Your app should include features, content, and UI that elevate it beyond a repackaged website. If your app is not particularly useful, unique, or “app-like,” it doesn’t belong on the App Store. If your App doesn’t provide some sort of lasting entertainment value or adequate utility, it may not be accepted. Apps that are simply a song or movie should be submitted to the iTunes Store. Apps that are simply a book or game guide should be submitted to the Apple Books Store.

  • 4.3 Spam

    Don’t create multiple Bundle IDs of the same app. If your app has different versions for specific locations, sports teams, universities, etc., consider submitting a single app and provide the variations using in-app purchase. Also avoid piling on to a category that is already saturated; the App Store has enough fart, burp, flashlight, fortune telling, dating, drinking games, and Kama Sutra apps, etc. already. We will reject these apps unless they provide a unique, high-quality experience. Spamming the store may lead to your removal from the Apple Developer Program.

  • 4.4 Extensions
    • 4.4.3 Stickers
      • (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 Apple Developer Program. If you believe your content has been infringed by another provider, submit a claim here.
  • 4.5 Apple Sites and Services
    • 4.5.3 Do not use Apple Services to spam, phish, or send unsolicited messages to customers, including Game Center, Push Notifications, etc. Do not attempt to reverse lookup, trace, relate, associate, mine, harvest, or otherwise exploit Player IDs, aliases, or other information obtained through Game Center, or you will be removed from the Apple Developer Program.
  • 4.7 HTML5 Games, Bots, etc.

    Apps may contain or run code that is not embedded in the binary (e.g. HTML5-based games, bots, etc.), as long as code distribution isn’t the main purpose of the app, the code is not offered in a store or store-like interface, and provided that the software (adheres to the additional rules that follow in 4.7.1) is and 4.7.2. These additional rules are important to preserve the experience that App Store customers expect, and to help ensure user safety.

    • 4.7.1 Software offered under this rule must:
      • be free or purchased using in-app purchase; (2)
      • only usesuse capabilities available in a standard WebKit view (e.g. it must open and run natively in Safari without modifications or additional software); your app mustand use WebKit and JavaScript Core to run third-party software and should not attempt to extend or expose native platform APIs to third-party software; (3) is
      • be offered by developers that have joined the Apple Developer Program and signed the Apple Developer Program License Agreement; (4) does
      • not provide access to real money gaming, lotteries, or charitable donations; (5) adheres
      • adhere to the terms of these App Store Review Guidelines (e.g. doesdo not include objectionable content); and (6) does
      • not offer digital goods or services for sale.
    • 4.7.2 Upon request, you must provide an index of software and metadata available in your app. It must include Apple Developer Program Team IDs for the providers of the software along with a URL which App Review can use to confirm that the software complies with the requirements above.
  • 5.1 Privacy
    • 5.1.1 Data Collection and Storage
      • (v) Account Sign-In: If your app doesn’t include significant account-based features, let people use it without a login. If your app supports account creation, you must also offer account deletion within the app. 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. The app must also include a mechanism to revoke social network credentials and disable data access between the app and social network from within the app. An app may not store credentials or tokens to social networks off of the device and may only use such credentials or tokens to directly connect to the social network from the app itself while the app is in use.
      • (vi) Developers that use their apps to surreptitiously discover passwords or other private data will be removed from the Apple Developer Program.
      • (ix) Apps that provide services in highly-regulated fields (such as banking and financial services, healthcare, gambling, legal cannabis use, and air travel) or that require sensitive user information should be submitted by a legal entity that provides the services, and not by an individual developer. Apps that facilitate the legal sale of cannabis must be geo-restricted to the corresponding legal jurisdiction.
  • 5.3 Gaming, Gambling, and Lotteries

    GamblingGaming, gaminggambling, and lotteries can be tricky to manage and tend to be one of the most regulated offerings on the App Store. Only include this functionality if you’ve fully vetted your legal obligations everywhere you make your app available and are prepared for extra time during the review process. Some things to keep in mind:

  • 5.5 Mobile Device Management

    Mobile Device Management Apps that offer Mobile Device Management (MDM) services must request this capability from Apple. Such apps may only be offered by commercial enterprises (such as business organizations, educational institutions, or government agencies), and in limited cases, companies using MDM for parental control services or device security. You must make a clear declaration of what user data will be collected and how it will be used on an app screen prior to any user action to purchase or otherwise use the service. MDM apps must not violate any applicable laws. Apps offering MDM services may not sell, use, or disclose to third parties any data for any purpose, and must commit to this in their privacy policy. In limited cases, third-party analytics may be permitted provided that the services only collect or transmit data about the performance of the developer’s MDM app, and not any data about the user, the user’s device, or other apps used on that device. Apps offering configuration profiles must also adhere to these requirements. Apps that do not comply with this guideline will be removed from the App Store and you may be removed from the Apple Developer Program.

  • 5.6 Developer Code of Conduct

    Please treat everyone with respect, whether in your responses to App Store reviews, customer support requests, or when communicating with Apple, including your responses in Resolution Center. Do not engage in harassment of any kind, discriminatory practices, intimidation, bullying, and don’t encourage others to engage in any of the above. Repeated manipulative or misleading behavior or other fraudulent conduct will lead to your removal from the Apple Developer Program.

    Your Developer Program account will be terminated if you engage in activities or actions that are not in accordance with the Developer Code of Conduct. To restore your account, you may provide a written statement detailing the improvements you plan to make. If your plan is approved by Apple and we confirm the changes have been made, your account may be restored.

    • 5.6.2 Developer Identity

      Providing verifiable information to Apple and customers is critical to customer trust. Your representation of yourself, your business, and your offerings on the App Store must be accurate. The information you provide must be truthful, relevant, and up-to-date so that Apple and customers understand who they are engaging with and can contact you regarding any issues.

    • 5.6.3 Discovery Fraud

      Participating in the App Store requires integrity and a commitment to building and maintaining customer trust. Manipulating any element of the App Store customer experience such as charts, search reviews, or referrals to your app erodes customer trust and is not permitted.

    • 5.6.4 App Quality

      Customers expect the highest quality from the App Store, and maintaining high quality content, services, and experiences promotes customer trust. Indications that this expectation is not being met include excessive customer reports about concerns with your app, such as negative customer reviews, and excessive refund requests. Inability to maintain high quality may be a factor in deciding whether a developer is abiding by the Developer Code of Conduct.

After You Submit

  • Bug Fix Submissions: For apps that are already on the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal or safety issues. If your app has been rejected, and qualifies for this process, please use the Resolution Center to communicate directly with the App Review team indicating that you would like to take advantage of this process and plan to address the issue in your next submission.