Apple has updated its App Store Review Guidelines for the second time since it entered 2020. The main content of this update includes App Clip, in-app purchases, cloud games, and many other aspects. To help you quickly grasp the key points of this update, this article explains the update and includes a translation of the original review guide update at the end of this article.
Table of Content
App Clips and other related guidelines are added: App Clips must be related to the content and functions of the main App; App Clips cannot contain ads, and ads can only appear in the main App.
New rules related to “cloud games” have been added to relax the restrictions on cloud game platforms: cloud games can be shelved after meeting all shelf requirements, but the games must be downloaded directly from the App Store.
Restrictions on in-app purchases are relaxed, but product owners are not allowed to actively encourage or imply that users can go to third-party payment places to make purchases. Separate detailed instructions are provided for different platforms and business models such as reading App, cross-platform service, enterprise service, one-to-one experience, and free standalone App.
App bug fixes will no longer be delayed due to violations of the guidelines
App submission requirements are more detailed, and cannot include hidden, unenabled, or undocumented features; App metadata cannot use trademarked terms, popular App names, pricing information, or other irrelevant phrases; and all new features, functionality, and product changes must be detailed in the “Review Notes” section of App Store Connect.
Highlights and explanations of this update to the review guidelines
New App Clips and other related guidelines: must be related to the main app content and functionality and cannot contain ads
Apple announced in WWDC20 that it will provide App Clips, widgets and other features in iOS14. Previously, on August 21, App Clips were available for submission in the iTC backend, and the App Store review guidelines have specific terms for the new iOS14 features.
App Clips, widgets, extensions, and notifications should be related to the content and functionality of the App. In addition, all App Clip features must be included in the main App binary package, and App Clips cannot contain ads.
Ads should only appear in the main App, not in extensions, App Clips, widgets, notifications, keyboards, watchOS apps, etc. All App Clips features must be included in the binary package of the main App. Ads should only appear in the main App, not in extensions, App Clips, widgets, notifications, keyboards, watchOS apps, etc.
New “cloud game” platform shelving criteria, must be downloaded from the App Store
Another highlight of this review guide update is the addition of “cloud game” related provisions.
The games provided in the streaming game service subscription must be downloaded directly from the App Store and designed to avoid repeated payments by subscribers, and should not be disadvantageous to non-subscribers.
Streaming games are permitted as long as they adhere to all guidelines, e.g., every game update must be submitted for review, developers must provide appropriate metadata for searching, games must use in-app purchases to unlock features or functionality, etc. Of course, there will always be open web and web browser apps that reach all users outside of the App Store.
Each streaming game must be submitted to the App Store as a separate App so that the app has an App Store product page, can appear in leaderboards and searches, has user ratings and reviews, can be managed through ScreenTime and other parental control apps, appears on the user’s device, etc.
Streaming game services may offer a Catalog App on the App Store to help users sign up for the service and find games on the App Store, provided the App adheres to all guidelines, including providing users with the option to pay for subscriptions purchased within the App and use Apple logins. All games included in the Catalog App must be linked to a separate App Store product page.
Streaming games are simply what we call “cloud gaming” services. After this review guide update, Apple relaxed the restrictions on the cloud game platform, saying that the cloud game platform can be shelved if it meets all the requirements, but “all games must be downloaded directly from the App Store”, and each game on the “Game Catalog” platform must be “linked” to the App Store product page. Each game on the “Game Catalog” platform needs to be “linked to a separate App Store product page”.
As a highly anticipated development direction for the gaming industry, the cloud gaming business model aims to provide a distribution platform for game manufacturers. Companies such as Sony, Microsoft, Nvidia and Google have all laid out this track, but have struggled to enter the iOS ecosystem. But it remains to be seen whether Apple’s new rules can be seen as a boon for these platforms. According to the regulations, any games offered on the cloud gaming platform need to be individually reviewed by Apple, meaning that these game makers must be Apple developers, while in-game purchases must also use Apple’s payment system, from which Apple usually receives a 30 percent cut of revenue.
Apple Expands Different Platforms and Business Models Allowing Third-Party Payments, Narrowing the Scope of the Commission
In this amendment, Apple has specifically updated third-party payments, and is now gradually expanding the different platforms and business models that can use third-party payments.
Other purchase methods: The following apps can be purchased using methods other than in-app purchases. The Apps in this section do not encourage users to make purchases other than in-app purchases, either within the App or by sending to contact information (such as email or SMS) obtained through in-app account registration.
The Reading App may provide account creation functionality for free package users and account management functionality for existing users.
Multi-Platform Services: Apps that run across multiple platforms can allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features available from your App on other platforms or websites, including consumable items in multi-platform games, provided those items are also available as in-App purchases within the App.
Enterprise Services: If you sell the App directly only to employees or students of your organization or group (such as professional databases and classroom management tools), you may use other payment methods in addition to in-App purchases to collect those payments. In-App purchases must be used for consumer, single-user, or household sales.
One-to-One Experiences: If the App allows the purchase of a live one-to-one experience between two people (for example, tutoring students, medical consultations, real estate tours, or fitness training), you may collect these payments using a purchase method other than in-app purchases. Real-time one-to-many experiences must be purchased using in-app purchases.
Free Standalone App: A free App that acts as a standalone plug-in for a paid Web-based tool (e.g., VOIP, cloud storage, email service, web hosting) does not require in-app purchases, provided there are no in-app purchases or calls for out-of-app purchases.
In this expansion of the platform and business model, there are two areas of great interest.
Allowing Apps that provide services such as professional databases to use other payment methods when selling to organizations/groups (i.e., when organizations/groups give bulk purchases to their members), but still require the use of in-App purchases when selling to individuals or households individually.
Apps that allow for one-to-one real-time online services, such as online courses, medical consultations, etc., can be paid for without using in-app purchases. However, if the service is for a non-individual group, payment must still be made using Apple’s payment system. Previously, Apple required virtual classes to use Apple’s in-app payment system.
While the App Store’s 30 percent cut to developers has not changed, the scope has been reduced. However, Apple has also made it clear that users are encouraged to use third-party payment to make purchases, i.e., product parties are not allowed to actively encourage or imply users to use purchase methods other than in-app purchases.
App reviews require fidelity and a more inclusive review process
In this update, Apple has further clarified and supplemented the requirements for App review, and the error correction previously mentioned in WWDC20 will no longer be delayed due to violation of the guidelines.
Do not include any hidden, unenabled or undocumented features in the App; App features should be clearly presented to end users and App reviewers.
All new features, functionality and product changes must be detailed in the “Review Notes” section of App Store Connect (generic descriptions will be rejected) and are available for review.
Choose a unique App name, assign keywords that accurately describe the App, and do not try to trick the system by adding trademarked terms, popular App names, pricing information, or other irrelevant phrases to any metadata.
After submission: If you still disagree with the review results or want to suggest changes to the guidelines themselves, please file an appeal.
Bug fix submissions: For apps already in the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed for violations of the guidelines, except for fixes related to legal issues. If your App has been rejected and is eligible for this process, please contact the App Review Team directly through Resolution Center to indicate that you wish to take advantage of this process and plan to resolve the issue on your next submission.
Apple has further clarified the rules for apps submitted for review, for example, they cannot include hidden or undocumented features, or features that are not enabled at the time of submission.
In addition, in the previous App Store Review Guidelines, Section 2.3.7 required products to choose a unique App name, keywords that accurately describe the App, and not to wrap any metadata in trademarked terms, popular App names, or other irrelevant phrases. Also new in this update to the review guidelines is the requirement not to add price information to any metadata.
Also new is the requirement that all new features, functionality, and product changes must be detailed in the “Review Notes” section of App Store Connect when updating an app for review. It’s also worth noting that developers must explain the new features of the app in a separate section during the review.
Previously, it was mentioned in WWDC20 that bug fixes would no longer be delayed due to violations of the guidelines, and that provision is now explicitly stated in the review guidelines. In addition, if a developer disagrees with the review results, they can appeal by contacting the Apple review team.