How will Apple’s new Guidelines Affect App Industry?
Content:
  • 1. 📑 New Apple’s App Store Guidelines: the most worrying change for developers
  • 2. ✅ How should You Act to See Your Event App on the App Store?
  • 3. ❔ How will new Apple’s App Store Guidelines Impact Template Apps and Where to Look for a Solution?
  • 4. ❕ Don’t miss it too: why does the statement 2.5.1 matter as well?
  • 5. 💡 Summary
  • Apple’s app review guidelines have shaken the industry. While nobody understands what’s happening, we will try to calm down and get a detailed analysis of this situation.

    Mobile developers are all up in the air now. What’s going on? Except announcing iOS 11 and intriguing us by tittle-tattles about the new iPhone 8 (or mysterious iPhone X), Apple has shaken the industry with new guidelines. While developers of app templates hastily try to figure out what needs to be done right now, we’re going to explain to you what’s happened and what you should do about it. Read on!



    📑 New Apple’s App Store Guidelines: the most worrying change for developers

    In June 2017 Apple announced new changes to its’ App Store Review Guidelines - the rules that developers have to follow if they don’t want their app to be rejected. Every time it’s a kind of quiz for app developers as they try to guess how exactly one new rule or another will work and whether there is any way around.

    Approval process
    Every developer wants to get an approval from Apple's moderators (image by Sergey Mudruk)

    Speaking of the devil, TechCrunch considers new rules as an attempt to clean up App Store by removing clone and excessive apps and spam from it. The main addition, which we will discuss in this article, hides behind the statement 4.2.6 which says us:

    “Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected”

    New Apple app review guidelines
    New Apple app review guidelines

    It may seem that it doesn’t sound like a serious issue. Simply put, no more clone apps. From user perspective it may even sound like an advantage. Yet, there are dozens of agencies that create templated apps (or DIYs that provide you with all necessary tools so you can do it on your own) and thousands of such apps itself. And Apple has pretty bad news for them.

    Why now? This addition may be Apple’s answer to copycats that flooded App Store. A well-known rule: if a new app gains huge popularity expect hundreds of its clones. Remember this catchy game 2048? App Store looked like a junkyard shortly after game’s code was published online:

    Clones of the popular game
    Clones of the popular game "2048"

    Naturally, Apple wants to keep such a tatty content away. The company has two reasons to do so:

    • They want to make sure that App Store doesn’t contain spam or look sloppy.
    • Developers of original apps’ versions won’t face injustice. Just imagine how much revenue creators of 2048 had lost because users intentionally or accidentally downloaded other versions of the app.

    Yet, while we appreciate this anti-spam and anti-fallacy policy of Apple, we also understand that new rules will affect a lot of apps that are neither spam nor fallacy. First of all, I mean white-label event apps.



    How Apple’s App Review Guidelines could Impact Event Apps: Pros and Cons

    Everybody likes holidays, celebrations, conferences and events! And apps are working as guides and matchmaking mechanisms, staff and marketing tools at the same time. That’s why event app providers always had enough work over the past decade. However, it seems their sunny days are gone.

    It’s no wonder that event apps were usually built using templates:

    • On the one hand, they almost always consist of the same features - schedules, floor plans, news feeds, photo galleries and so on. There was simply no need to reinvent the wheel!
    • On the other hand, users have never had high expectations for UI or for the uniqueness of such applications.
    Templated app
    A typical templated app

    However, with event app submission changes all of the above doesn’t matter anymore. You have to seek for new solutions, and developers from Stormotion have a couple ideas for you.



    ✅ How should You Act to See Your Event App on the App Store?

    Broadly speaking, it’s not an “appageddon” for event apps as some call it. App Store guidelines for event apps just require developers to look for new solutions, rather than completely abandon the creation of such applications.



    Idea # 1: a Separate App

    The most obvious decision is to build a native app using React Native. Despite template apps were a bearable compromise between the price and the quality, it’s meaningless to argue that an on-brand (or bespoke, or customized, or tailor-made - whatever you call them) mobile application can achieve a far higher level of UX. And you should know it better than me: experience is everything for attendees and sometimes it even determines whether they are going to visit your event or not.

    Choosing React Native as a framework for building a custom Event App has the advantage, that you can re-use up to 80% of the codebase and get both iOS and Android apps cheaper, than if you would develop them in a native way (e.g. using Swift & Kotlin). However, the quality won’t be affected, because React Native works like a native app for the user.

    A tailor-made event app
    It's always easy to understand where is a native mobile app (image by kohutpiotr)

    We in Stormotion are highly concerned about impressions and feelings of users. The app creation process is more than just picking different colors in the auto-builder. That’s why we always adjust the result so that it matches visual and information preferences of the target audience, your brand, the theme of event etc. Thus, it allows us to keep the optimal price-quality ratio.

    So what are pros and cons of developing a customized app instead of using cheap event app builders?

    Pros
    1. You’ll get a product of better quality which is crucial for improving experience of your attendees.
    2. You can implement any features you want (unlike the pre-set feature list in App-Templates).
    3. Use uniqueness of the Design to your advantage to stand out from your competitors.
    4. You can use all “Native Features” of the Mobile OS, which templates can’t provide.
    Cons
    • Development will take more time as you have to build a customized product.
    • Managing content inside the app for the Event could be more tricky.
    • It will cost more than a template app, but it’s really worth it.



    Idea # 2: an “App-in-App”

    We all know aggregator apps very well. Take Zomato or Booking.com as examples. The main goal of such services is to gather a lot offers inside one app (like Zomato does with restaurants and Booking.com - with hotels). Taking into account the last event app submission changes, we may expect the rise of such “event aggregators” in the App Store as well.

    Your workflow in this case is easy as that:

    1. You should find the most relevant and popular aggregator app according to your location, target audience and so on.
    2. When an appropriate variant is found, you will have to pay a fee or buy a membership depending on the monetization model of the aggregator.
    3. After the payment is confirmed, you can, actually, create a simple app relating to your specific event inside the “main” aggregator app (that’s why this solution is called “app-in-app”).
    Event aggregator
    A typical event aggregator (image by Divan Raj)

    However, we strongly recommend you to avoid such a decision. Why? Let’s review it together:

    Pros
    1. It’s significantly cheaper than native app development.
    2. This solution will save you a lot of time cause it works like a simple app-builder (or it will be more accurate to say a “screen-builder”) right inside another mobile application.
    Cons
    • It adds extra steps for your users to get to your content. It means that you will lose a big part of your potential attendees.
    • Competitors’ events will be allocated along with yours so, perhaps, you can lose another part of attendees in their favor.
    • Such aggregators almost totally destroy any event branding and uniqueness so it’s going to look like “just one of many”.



    Idea # 3: a Web App

    The last variant that we can offer you is creating a web app (Apple's Safari Web Content Guide is a must-read for you!). It’s a better path to follow comparing to the “app-in-app” solution but still worse one than developing a native app. Let’s figure it all out.

    It’s not a secret that for event marketing & management purposes websites are paramount. Moreover, a properly built site can help you to kill two birds with one stone since you can turn it into a mobile… well, not an app but still something better than just your page inside the aggregator.

    Responsive web design
    Example of a web app (image by Tobias van Schneider ▲▲▲)

    The one and only demand is that your website should be optimised for mobile devices or, in other words, have a responsive web design. You can also go further and update your site to a web application. This will allow you:

    • Have an own button on a home screen (just like the “real” apps do!).
    • Open your website in a full-screen mode so it pretends to look like a mobile application.

    What are positive and negative sides of this solution? Here they are:

    Pros
    1. If you already have a website that is optimized for mobile, you can easily turn it into a web app at almost no cost.
    2. It’s possible to save your event branding and uniqueness with a web application.
    3. You may forget about event app submission changes cause you actually don’t have to publish your app to the App Store.
    Cons
    • A number of “native features” that’s available for a mobile application isn’t available for a web application.
    • It would be also impossible to achieve the high level of UX set by customized mobile apps.
    • Moreover, web apps usually work slower and can’t operate without an Internet connection.
    Read Also How to Turn or Convert a Website into an App?

    However, event app submission to App Store is only one side of a bigger problem. I’m talking about template apps. Why? Because this category includes many other kinds of mobile applications along with event ones.



    ❔ How will new Apple’s App Store Guidelines Impact Template Apps and Where to Look for a Solution?

    Until recently, template app builders were commonly used for constructing different kinds of apps - restaurant, media, community, small business and others. Despite they offered a limited number of actions (you could only choose from pre-composed sets of templates and change such things as colors, texts and images), asked to install their plugin to create an API, it was a low-budget and fast solution if you needed an app for a local community that wasn’t supposed to become extremely popular.

    Now the situation will change dramatically.



    What’s Happening on the Market?

    As of now, some app-builders (like GoodBarber or AppyPie) have already faced rejections. Without making changes to their policies these services won’t be able to develop iOS apps anymore and will either disappear or refocus on the Android market.

    App builder
    A simple app builder with a pre-composed set of features

    Other companies (like BiznessApps) started to charge an additional fee (for example, BiznessApps asks for $499 per iOS app) that should cover an internal review and changes to your app that will help it pass App Store’s review process. Actually, these fees kill one of the main advantages of such services - their cheapness.



    Does Apple Give the Red Light to any Templates?

    It’s an important question to consider. Every developer will tell you that correctly used code snippet templates can save a lot of time and make the development process go faster. Why should you spend time, money and other resources to build some elements from scratch if someone has already shared an appropriate solution? Will it be banned too?

    The bad news is that Apple still hasn’t made any official statement or explanation and it’s not clear how they determine if an app is a clone or not. From development perspective it could be a bunch of factors like: comparing .plist-files, comparing submission .ipa’s and configs. Once they see a match on these factors, a person from Apple Review Team compares the apps manually to check if there’s some similarity in UI. If yes - bad news for the App Developer. But that’s just our guess how the process might look like.

    The whole rule just contains only 1 sentence so nobody knows for sure by what criteria applications will be rejected or approved. However, we in Stormotion have our own understanding of the situation.

    The group that is going to be banned without any doubt is copy-paste apps. It’s like when someone in school took the first essay out of the Internet and presented it like an original one. This group includes commercialized templates that allow creating almost similar apps with only an extremely low share of customization.

    Customized app
    It's just impossible to achieve this level of performance with a templated app (image by Anton Skvortsov)

    On the other hand, we have native customized applications that were created using some templates during development. In this case, it’s more like you’ve googled “how to write an essay?” and then wrote your own using advice and hints from the article on your request. Therefore, your mobile application shouldn’t be rejected as it’s still highly customized (it has likely another UI etc.) and brings your users some unique value.



    ❕ Don’t miss it too: why does the statement 2.5.1 matter as well?

    Before we summarize everything we learned today, let’s pay some attention to another substantial change in guidelines. Apple has added just 8 words that created enough troubles for developers:

    “2.5.1 Apps may only use public APIs and must run on the currently shipping OS

    Previously, it wasn’t necessary to update an app to the latest version of iOS but know your app will just be rejected without it! Frankly speaking, it doesn’t seem like a resource-consuming task. Yet, you have to keep your weather eye constantly open so as not to miss a fresh OS update.

    Read Also [How and Why] Outsource Your Mobile App Development?



    💡 Summary

    Let’s quickly remind key takeaways of this article!

    Takeaways!
    The Fact 📃 What's bad about it 🙁
    Apple has updated their guidelines in June 2017 The company still hasn’t released any official statement or explanation on this matter.
    Rule 4.2.6 prohibits using “commercialized templates or app generation services” Many event app providers will close and you will have to look for new solutions (we have them for you! 🙂)
    The rule doesn’t contain any specifications Nobody knows for sure by what criteria applications will be rejected or approved.

    However, everything is not so pessimistic as it seems. Stormotion team also prepared 3 short but effective recommendations for that will help you avoid submission problems:

    The best decision is to build a Native Customized App.
    Be unique since it's one of your main advantages.
    Always make sure your app supports the latest iOS version.

    I hope this article has clarified the new Apple’s App Store guidelines. Yet, if you have any questions left or just need a tip, feel free to contact us!

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