Apple Tightened App Review Criteria

Apple Tightened App Review Criteria

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It is the beginning of 2017 but Apple does not make it easy to CPs just because of that. Regular app blocking, changing ranking rules and keyword algorithm… endless changes of criteria causing problems to many CPs. Furthermore, Apple tightened app review cateria in early January, many CPs have given up and app rejection increased.

Recently, our editor and CPs discussed on the problems of app review. The survey results show that title, IPv6, test accounts, in-app purchase, lottery app are among the top reasons that apps will be rejected by Apple.

The top 10 reasons apps get rejected

From the discussion with CPs, our editor concluded the top 10 reasons for apps get rejected based on the data from January and early February and the weightage of each reason:

  1. Keywords in the title or keyword stuffing (about 29.4%)
  2. Download problems due to IPv6 (about 15.1%)
  3. App title contains obvious brand words (about 8.6%)
  4. Not providing valid test account, demo video or hardware (about 8.5%)
  5. Violations of in-app purchases, using third-party payment method (approximately 7.4%)
  6. Content and function duplication with other app in App (about 7.1%)
  7. Name of developer and payment name in the app do not match (about 6.5%)
  8. Only support third-party login (about 3.1%)
  9. Contains objectable content (about 2.2%)
  10. In-app support lottery purchase (approximately 2.1%)

We can easily discover the above top 10 list weighted more than 90% of all rejected reasons, especially the top 3 weighted more that 50%, namely “Keywords in the title or keyword stuffing”, “Download problems due to IPv6” and “App title contains obvious brand words”. In other words, in the cases given by the CPs, more than half of the apps are rejected due to these three reasons.

Explanations to apps rejections

Keywords or keyword stuffing in the title

Through the investigation of the latest rejection from app review, we discovered that about one third of the applications were rejected due to keywords or keyword stuffing in the title.

Appropriate measures are needed to resolve the problem:

  • If the app is not compatible with IPv6, the best way is to ensure app is compatible or through server upgrade to support IPv6.
  • If the app is already compatible with IPv6 but rejected due to differences in test environment, the best solution is to provide Apple with screenshots or video to appeal, or try to submit app review multiple times.

Download problems due to IPv6

It is worth mentioning that the recent increase in app rejection due to download problem caused by IPv6 network. In fact, the app is not compatible with IPv6 and test environment for app reviewer could lead to such problem. The same measures to resolve the first problem are needed to resolve the issue.

App title contains obvious brand words

Apple clearly stated in section 2.3.7 of “App Store Review Guidelines” that: don’t try to pack any of your metadata with trademarked terms, popular app names, or other irrelevant phrases just to game the system. ” In other words, if the application or its metadata (especially the title) is added with brand words not owned by the developer, or unauthorized trademark terms, celebrity name, etc. it may be rejected.

Note: In additional to keyword stuffing and brand words in the title as the most obvious common reasons, your app may be rejected because of the following reasons.

  • The title contains words that not related to function of the app.
  • The title contains violence, pornography or provocative words that are not match with app ranking.
  • The title length is too long, although Apple has specified title length to be 50 characters or less, but Apple has also clearly pointed out in its official website.

Not providing valid test account, demo video or hardware

In order to help the app successfully through the review, Apple listed common missteps that can slow down the review process or trigger a rejection to help app approval go as smoothly as possible.

Include a demo account info with username and password if your app requires a login, provide demo video or hardware if a feature requires a complicated environment or specific hardware, and list the relevant details if special configurations are required. Also, make sure your account information is complete and up to date.

Violations of in-app purchases

Apple requires that In-App Purchase (IAP) must be used if payment is required to unlock some of the features in an app, such as, subscription content, game currency, game level, access to premium content, or unlock the full version. Buttons, external links, or other invocations and behaviors to lead users to pay for non-IAP are also not allowed. If your in-app payment is not set correctly, your app will be rejected. Additionally, apps cannot directly or indirectly use content and features under In-App Payment as gifts to other users.

Content and function duplication with other apps

If the content and functionality of the app is similar to other apps in the App Store, especially those popular one, or simply modify the name and UI of an app, it may not be approved by Apple reviewer.

On top of that, although Apple’s idea is to promote “simplicity”, it does not mean accepting unsophisticated or unitary app function. If your app is not creative, and cannot provide a valuable user experience, or only apply to a niche market, it may also be rejected by Apple.

Developer name and payment name in the app don’t match

A reminder to developers especially financial, P2P and other financial-related app developers: if the developer’s name and App’s financial institution name does not match, the risk of being rejected will be greatly increased.

If you encounter a similar problem, you can try the following:

  • Apple’sregulations: financial apps can only use the corresponding company name of the developer account. In other words, if you receive email regarding this matter when submitting financial app with personal account, then consider using company account.
  • If you do not want to take the above approach, and you are helping customers submit the app, you can let customers add your developer account to their developer team listand then try to submit.
  • Delete or hide sensitive information and features during the review.

Only supports third-party login

Apple stated in section 5.1.1 of review guidelines: 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 like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, 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.

Contains sensitive content

Apple stated in section 5.1.1 of review guidelines:  App should not have defamatory or mean-spirited content, including references or commentary about religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, other targeted groups, or place a targeted individual or group in harm’s way.

In-app support lottery purchase

Apple does not allow in-app purchases to buy credit or virtual currency and use them in conjunction with actual currency, nor does it allow the purchase of lottery tickets, raffle tickets, and money transfers in apps. But you can provide a link to activate Safari and redirect purchase from a website.


It is a fact that Apple is tightening review criteria so everyone should act conservatively! There will be a long delay for app going live or update if rejected in review. Many CPs feedback that many apps continuously stay at “Reviewing” state without further solutions since second half of January (longest time is about 10 days) even after contacted Apple or repeated submission. The consequences are very serious if rejected in the review.

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