Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on 9/5/2017. Since then, Apple again revised the App Store Review Guidelines 4.2.6 on 12/20/17. Please see our updated post: Important Update - Apple’s New App Store Review Guidelines 4.2.6 Revives Branded Event Apps.
Apple's announcements during their June 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) have sparked many conversations in the app industry. Here’s the skinny on how event apps are affected by Apple’s enforcement of their new App Store Review Guidelines. If you have some time to kill and are interested in reading the guidelines in their entirety, you are welcome to check them out here; however, let’s cut to the chase. The subjective guidelines making waves in the sea of event apps:
4.2.6 Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected.
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, and Kama Sutra apps already. Spamming the store may lead to your removal from the Developer Program.
What do these changes mean?
There are varying interpretations among app developers, so we went straight to the source. According to our conversations with the App Review team regarding
4.2.6, apps closely resembling the look and feel of other apps on the App Store will no longer be accepted. With respect to 4.3, apps with similar themes and feature sets from a common developer should be housed within a “container” app for downloading. In a nut shell, apps from a common developer that resemble each other in any function or form will be rejected.
Why did Apple make these changes?
Apple is in the process of cleaning up the App Store and their latest guidelines are designed to flush out the prevalence of absurdly overproduced apps of the same concept. A quick search of “Flappy Bird” will drive home the point. Unfortunately, Apple has also decided to classify many event apps as commercially templated and in a saturated category.
What is a container app?
The term, container app, refers to the app structure that Apple is encouraging app developers to use. Consider it a multi-tenant or community app containing various events which Apple asserts have similar features or structure.
How do these changes affect mobile event apps?
Essentially, Apple has decided to no longer approve branded event apps that fail to satisfy Apple’s subjective definition as “unique” from other event apps from a common developer. But this does not unilaterally mark the end of branded event apps. It is still possible for an organization to have their own “ACME Conference” or “ACME” app; however, it requires custom coding and although these solutions exist, many organizations consider this option fiscally unfeasible.
How is the attendee experience affected?
Never fear, event apps are still be available; however, the attendee experience has changed. Prior to Apple’s Guideline alterations, attendees would be able to search the App Store for “ACME Conference” to download the event content. Now, attendees download the developer’s container app from the App Store and search for “ACME Conference” within the container app. An attendee’s interaction with content and features specific to the event hasn’t changed.
Do these changes affect my existing app?
If you already have a branded app on the App Store provided by an event app developer, Apple may be inclined to let you update your app, but perhaps not for much longer. Apple is currently strictly enforcing the new guidelines with developers and is going through the process of rejecting updates for any apps not adhering to their rules. This means future feature and performance enhancements, bug fixes, and iOS versions will not be supported. If you are unsure if this applies you, contact your event app developer for more information.
Is there a work around?
While some app developers may try to find creative ways to continue publishing to the App Store apps which violate guidelines 4.2.6 and 4.3, please consider Apple’s warning: “If you attempt to cheat the system (for example, by trying to trick the review process…) your apps will be removed from the store and you will be expelled from the Developer Program.”
Please, tell me there’s good news!
Yes, there are benefits to a container app!
Shorter Development Time: No more time consuming app approval process. You can publish your event content and have it instantly available for download. A shorter app development timeline means your organization has more time to pursue its mission.
Branding Still Available: Continue custom-branding at the event level of your content, plus the option to restrict content access via username/password.
Functionalities Unchanged: Attendees can continue to enjoy the same features as before.
Lower Cost: Container apps are more budget-friendly than custom-branded event apps.
These new guidelines apply to all event app developers
Container apps are the new industry standard
Don’t take it personally, Apple doesn’t hate your organization or its mission
Our container app, Eventpedia, is fully compliant with Apple Guidelines 4.2.6 and 4.3 and available on the App Store and Google Play (keyword: “Eventpedia”). If you have any questions or would like to talk event apps, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.