Thursday, March 5, 2020

New App Store Guidelines for Push Notifications and More

Juli Clover:

Apple today informed developers that it has released updated App Store Review Guidelines, with changes that cover reviews, spam, push notifications, Sign in with Apple, data collection and storage, mobile device management, and more.

Here’s a diff.


4.5.4 Push Notifications must not be required for the app to function, and should not be used to send sensitive personal or confidential information. Push Notifications should not be used for promotions or direct marketing purposes unless customers have explicitly opted in to receive them via consent language displayed in your app’s UI, and you provide a method in your app for a user to opt out from receiving such messages. Abuse of these services may result in revocation of your privileges.

Previously, apps were not allowed to send these types of push notifications at all, although Apple’s own apps sent marketing notifications, and it rarely enforced this for third-party apps. Some people are interpreting this relaxing of the rules as a sign that Apple is getting more serious about enforcement.

Curtis Herbert:

A) yay no more “no marketing pushes!? but apple does it!” hot takes

Will Apple’s apps let you opt out, as third-part apps are required to?

Guilherme Rambo:

Having each developer implement their own notification categorization system is a huge waste of resources.

Paul Haddad:

Now that Apple has a policy for marketing push messages they should also add a global toggle for them.

Nick Heer:

The rules are ambiguous about whether users must be able to opt out of push notification ads without entirely disabling notifications for an app.


Notably, there is also no requirement that push notification ads be a promotion for the app or its features. It seems perfectly legal under these rules for unscrupulous developers to sell push notification ad slots to third parties. Gross.

Kyle Howells:

Apple changing the rules to officially accept defeat on a rule they’ve never actually enforced.


Apple is officially an advertising company. They allow marketing spam so they can receive a cut of sales.


5.1.1 (ix) Apps that provide services in highly-regulated fields (such as banking and financial services, healthcare, and air travel) or that require sensitive user information should be submitted by a legal entity that provides the services, and not by an individual developer.

So no financial apps that can download your lists of transactions?

Apple (emphasis added):

3.1.3 (b) Multiplatform Services: Apps that operate across multiple platforms may allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or your web site, including consumable items in multiplatform games, provided those items are also available as in-app purchases within the app. You must not directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase, and your general communications about other purchasing methods must not discourage use of in-app purchase.

Is the Mac another platform? Does this mean you can activate an iOS app with the serial number for a Mac app?

Max Seelemann:

That last one bit is very interesting, as it makes is extra clear now that selling subscriptions outside the App Store for App Store apps is A-okay.


1.4.4 Apps used to commit or attempt to commit crimes of any kind by helping users evade law enforcement will be rejected. Apps may only display DUI checkpoints that are published by law enforcement agencies, and should never encourage drunk driving or other reckless behavior such as excessive speed.

Damien Petrilli:

Everybody ask Apple to stand for freedom, and instead, Apple double down on rules to help dictatorships. This is clearly targeting the Hong Kong protesters App.

Oddly, the current version on Apple’s site seems to have reverted to the old wording:

1.4.4 Apps may only display DUI checkpoints that are published by law enforcement agencies, and should never encourage drunk driving or other reckless behavior such as excessive speed.

I like this version better, as virtually any app could be used to help commit a crime, e.g. even a basic to-do or messaging app. HKmap Live also had non-criminal uses. Apps shouldn’t be penalized for the ways customers choose to use them.

And there’s a whole new section:

5.6.1 App Store Reviews

App Store customer reviews can be an integral part of the app experience, so you should treat customers with respect when responding to their comments. Keep your responses targeted to the user’s comments and do not include personal information, spam, or marketing in your response.

Use the provided API to prompt users to review your app; this functionality allows customers to provide an App Store rating and review without the inconvenience of leaving your app, and we will disallow custom review prompts.

This seems reasonable.


Update (2020-03-06): Juli Clover:

Apple is rejecting apps that are related to the COVID-19 coronavirus that aren’t provided by health organizations or government institutions, according to CNBC.

Four independent developers that spoke to CNBC said that their coronavirus apps, which were designed to let people see stats about which countries have confirmed cases, had been rejected.

One developer was told over the phone by an Apple employee that anything related to the coronavirus needs to be released by an official health organization or government, while another received a notice that “apps with information about current medical information need to be submitted by a recognized institution.”

I don’t think Apple should be in the business of deciding which apps have good health information. Some of the ones that were rejected undoubtedly did. Meanwhile, various world health and governmental organizations, as well as general news sources and forums, have in some cases spread misinformationyet those apps remain welcome in the store.

Benjamin Mayo:

Apple seems to be doing a decent job rejecting health advice apps not published by official institutions, but there is deffo keyword spam going on. Plenty of random games show up when you search for “coronavirus”.

See also: Hacker News.

Update (2020-03-27): See also: App Store Review Guidelines History.

1 Comment RSS · Twitter

I really really really hate 3.1.3 (b), as its entirely customer unfriendly. It helps no one by doing this.

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