Apple just updated its App Store guidelines, the document that tells iPhone and iPad developers what kind of behavior the company will tolerate and where it is likely to reject apps or crack down after the fact – and as TechCrunch reports, many of today’s changes are aimed directly at crooks and fraudsters preying on Apple users. But not all.
I just ran it all through a difference checker to show you exactly what has changed. Find out all the differences here for yourself, or read on for the highlights.
Apple warns scammers it’s coming for all of their accounts
Apple already had a section called “5.6 Developer Code of Conduct” which warned developers not to “prey on users or attempt to scam customers” among an extensive list of other bad behavior. Now it also includes two clear warnings and a redemption possibility:
Repeated manipulative or deceptive behavior or any other fraudulent behavior will result in 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 can 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 can be restored.
Apple will count slippery identities, fake reviews, negative reviews and other warning signs against a developer’s reputation
These three sections of the Developer Code of Conduct are brand new:
5.6.2 Identity of the developer
Providing verifiable information to Apple and to customers is essential to customer trust. Your portrayal of yourself, your business, and your offerings on the App Store must be accurate. The information you provide should be truthful, relevant, and up-to-date so that Apple and its customers know who they are engaging with and can contact you if there is a problem.
5.6.3 Discovery fraud
Participation in the App Store requires integrity and a commitment to building and maintaining customer trust. Manipulation of any element of the App Store customer experience, such as graphics, wanted reviews, or references to your app erodes customer trust and is not permitted.
5.6.4 Application quality
Customers expect the highest quality from the App Store, and maintaining high quality content, services and experiences builds customer trust. Indications that this expectation is not being met include reports from excessive customers of issues with your application, such as negative customer reviews and excessive refund requests. Failure to maintain high quality can be a determining factor if a developer adheres to the Developer Code of Conduct.
Deceptive marketing is also not allowed, up to and including the prices of baits and switches. These parts in bold in section 2.3.1 are new:
market your app in a deceptive way, for example by promoting content or services that it does not actually offer (for example, iOS-based virus and malware scanners) or promoting a fake price, whether inside or outside the App Store, is grounds for removing your app from the App Store and the termination of your developer account.
This all seems to be aimed directly at Apple’s problem of scams, where the world’s most profitable company has failed to stop the egregious scams that are so obvious you could easily find them yourself, and where The Washington Post found that 2% of the company’s top-grossing apps were fraudulent. But it’s unclear if the app will improve alongside these new rules. TechCrunch apparently did not get a response to this during his briefing with Apple.
Bounty hunter apps are warned
Remember when the CEO of Citizen encouraged his users to hunt down an innocent person by offering a reward of $ 30,000? Apple’s new rule appears designed to hinder vigilante justice:
1.7 Reporting criminal activity
Applications for reporting suspected criminal activity must involve local law enforcement and may only be offered in countries where such involvement is active.
Login apps are also flagged
I’m not sure which app made the headlines this time around, but Apple has faced this issue before.
1.1.4 Openly sexual or pornographic material, defined by the Webster Dictionary as “explicit descriptions or demonstrations of sexual organs or activities aimed at stimulating erotic feelings rather than aesthetic or emotional”. This includes “hookup” apps which may include pornography or be used to facilitate prostitution.
Legal weed is OK, but it must be legal
Cannabis apps have been available on iPhone for many years, and not for lack of rules. It’s more about letting developers know that a certain narrowly defined category is allowed.
(ix) Applications that provide services in highly regulated areas (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 providing the services, and not by an individual developer. Applications that facilitate the legal sale of cannabis should be geo-restricted to the corresponding legal jurisdiction.
You don’t need to give Apple a share of physical gift card sales
Apple said it does not take a share of physical purchases. Were physical gift cards an exception? Either way, you don’t have to pay now.
Digital Gift cards, certificates, vouchers, and coupons that can be redeemed for digital goods or services can only be sold in your app using an in-app purchase. Physical gift cards sold in an app and then mailed to customers can use payment methods other than in-app purchase.
Apple’s most arbitrary rules aren’t gone, but sifted
Of all the App Store rules, the “do not include irrelevant information” is probably the easiest to abuse; developers like ProtonMail have told us that it is used to justify the removal of an application when there are no really relevant rules. It also annoys developers who think they should be able to educate their users about the hurdles they need to overcome to enter the store. It’s not gone, but it’s shorter now:
2.3.10 Make sure your application is focused on the iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS or watchOS and do not include names, icons, or images from other mobile platforms in your app or metadata unless there is specific and approved interactive functionality. Make sure your app’s metadata is focused on the app itself and its experience. Do not include irrelevant information,
including, but not limited to, information about Apple or the development process.
Plus, Apple is clearer now that – with certain types of apps, and outside of the app itself, and only if you get their contact details somewhere else somehow – the developers actually. can tell their users that they can pay outside of the Apple store:
Developers cannot use information obtained in the app to target individual users outside of the app in order to use purchasing methods other than in-app purchase (such as sending an individual user a email about other purchasing methods after that person signs up for an account in the app). Developers can send out-of-app communications to their user base regarding purchasing methods other than in-app purchase.
This does nothing to resolve the company’s anti-leadership rules, which were highlighted in the Epic-Apple lawsuit, but it does make the extreme cases clearer.
Apple wants apps to let users be free
5.1.1 (v) Account Login: If your app does not include important account-based features, allow users to use it offline. If your app supports account creation, you must also offer account deletion in the app.
Oh, and Roblox still isn’t a game
This section is brand new:
1.2.1 Creator content
Apps that feature content from a specific community of users called “creators” are a great opportunity if moderated properly. These apps present a single, unified experience for customers to interact with different types of creator content. They offer tools and programs to help this community of non-developer creators create, share, and monetize user-generated experiences. These experiences should not change the basic functionality and functionality of the native application. Rather, they add content to these structured experiences. These experiences are not native developer-coded “apps” – they are part of the content of the app itself and is treated as user-generated content by App Review. Such creator content can include videos, articles, audio, and even casual games. The App Store supports applications offering such user-generated content as long as they meet all guidelines, including guideline 1.2 for the moderation of user-generated content and guideline 3.1.1 for payments and in-app purchases. Creator apps should share the age of the most age-rated creator content available in the app and let users know which content requires additional purchase.
If you’re wondering what Apple is doing here, here’s the TL; DR:
Apple doesn’t want to allow cloud gaming services like Stadia and xCloud in the App Store. Then everyone pointed out that Roblox is a collection of games that haven’t been individually approved, LOL. Apple argued at trial that Roblox is not a game, and Roblox amusingly agreed. Now Apple is creating a whole new category of “creative content” to explain why Roblox is OK, while other gaming platforms that contain multitudes are not. Simple!