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What is Going On With App Makers and the Apple Store?

Author

29 Aug 2017

Florian

As of June 2017, Apple announced new rules designed to reduce the number of spam and clone apps on their App Store. Section 4.2.6 of their latest guideline clearly states that: “Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected.”

apple 4.2.6 guideline

Apple’s new design guideline

 

Unfortunately, some app makers seem to be directly affected by this new rule. While we are certain they are working their hardest to circumvent it, there is a lot of confusion about the subject at the moment.

In an effort to answer your questions about this difficult situation, we will keep updating this page with any new information we can get. Feel free to share your own experience with app makers and iOS submissions in our comment section.

GoodBarber

As of the 11th of September, GoodBarber is announcing an improvement in the situation.

  • Users who already have an app on the App Store can safely update them again
  • GoodBarber are reopening submissions to iOS
  • They are pushing through with the migrations from V3 to V4
  • They are working a new commercial offer that will increase the chance of App Store submissions being accepted

As one of the largest app makers out there, GoodBarber was severely affected by the new rule, and they have completely halted submissions to the App Store. In short, you cannot currently publish a GoodBarber app to iOS.

Note that they advertise a proposal fee of $450 for each app submission, but this is not applicable at the moment. All we know so far is that they are trying a new solution with Apple as their latest update as of August 22nd suggests (available for GoodBarber users in the backend).

AppMachine

The latest update found on the 29th of August in the user dashboard suggests AppMachine can now publish to iOS again. One of the changes made was “the introduction of a more detailed pre-check before submission”. It does not guarantee publication, but should help you continue working on your app until you get it right.

Similar to GoodBarber, AppMachine cannot currently publish apps to iOS. You can read a copy of the email they sent to resellers, as found on CodeCloud.net.

Shoutem

According to Robert Sekulić, head of marketing at Shoutem: not a single app was affected by the 4.2.6 guideline. We should say that they are probably your best bet for getting apps to the App Store at the moment.

As you may know, they are currently updating their v4 platform to v5 – however none of the apps in either versions have been affected. Explaining the reason for their success, Robert said:

Our v5 platform, based on React Native, provides a way for users to build truly native mobile apps (…). Clearly, Apple doesn't want web apps with a native container around them to be present in the App Store. Hybrid apps will never be able to achieve the performance, speed, security and reliability of native apps and provide fluent user experience Apple requires.”

This could also be thanks to their new approach of being as developer-friendly as possible: “although you can use our pre-build modules, you can change both design and functionality in the app's code to adjust it to your business needs”.

And finally, Robert praised their internal review system: “our internal reviews are harsh. Our team reviews every app submitted and if there's something missing in, e.g., not enough content or missing interactive features, we will reject the app and guide users what needs to be changed in order to submit it on our end to the App Store. In this way, we're taking every step of precaution to ensure that your app will be accepted and published in the App Store.”

BiznessApps

On the 30th of August, BiznessApps confirmed that users can still submit their apps to the App Store. However, they will have to pay an additional $499 fee per iOS app. This is for the costs of an internal review and eventual changes to the app. In the same email, the CEO stated that:

  • the fee is refundable if the app is rejected
  • BiznessApps is still taking on resellers
  • they are in direct contact with Apple.

BuildFire

BuildFire co-founder Ian Blair told us in an email on the 29th of August that the company is not affected. They have provided one example of an app published to iOS during the week.

Swiftic

Our answer after contacting Swiftic is the following:

“While we are submitting to the stores as usual, we are well aware of the new guideline change by Apple and its impact on the market.

Our submission and development teams are going through each and every submitted app, making sure it is aligned with Apple’s new guidelines.”

AppInstitute

It would appear AppInstitute can still publish apps to the App Store. Ian Naylor, CEO and Founder of AppInstitute states that although they’ve seen a reduction in the number of apps being approved, he believes it is not the death of all app building platforms.

“Variations on these Apple guidelines have already been in place for a long time and is simply a way for Apple to ensure apps released on their App Store offer value to their customers in terms of native device functionality. Something we also believe is important which is why we have always, as standard, reviewed all apps that are submitted to Apple with no cost to the customer.

Change comes with any industry, whether they are shifting markets or emerging technologies, it is simply an evolution. We’re a technologically forward thinking company and used to innovating, thinking outside of the box and being agile in terms of how we react to find new opportunities and the best solutions for our customers and businesses.”

AppYourself

According to our last email with AppYourself CMO on the 29th, AppYourself can still publish to the App Store. They haven’t had any rejections and are still able to submit individual apps, as well as apps for their partners.

The CMO also had a positive outlook on the situation. In an email conversation, he wrote: “I believe Apple doesn't want to end all app builders, but to reduce the time their review team spends on poor apps and the costs associated. They probably want to increase the quality of submitted apps in terms of layout, design and mainly functionality – more interactive and unique features, better value for the end-user.”

AppyPie

We were contacted directly by AppyPie who submitted proof that some apps were published on the App Store.

In a SD Times article published on August, 16th, AppyPie CEO Abs Girdhar admitted one their apps was recently rejected. “If this continues, it can have a major impact on DIY app platforms, which will eventually have an impact on small business owners,” he said.

What about Google’s Play Store?

As is often the case, it would seem that Apple and Google have very different ways of doing things. The latter is equally affected by “bad apps” but they are sweeping them under the rug rather than destroying an entire side industry.

In contrast to Apple, Google is very strong on search and is able to just remove low-quality apps from their search algorithms. This seems like a much fairer approach to us, one that works quite well for the World Wide Web.

So what happens next?

Unfortunately at this stage the answer is the same for everyone: we don’t know. As you can imagine, Apple’s decision could have a disastrous effect on thousands of small businesses who use drag and drop builders for their apps. There isn’t much to do except wait and see.

However, here are some takeaway points:

  • Certain app makers could work around the problem by adding a fee for each App Store submission, like BiznessApps. We imagine they will keep the same platform for users, but will “disguise” the app with some custom coding before submitting to Apple. In short, you will have to pay for the time of their development team.
  • As a reseller, you could increase your chances if each iOS app is published under your client's own developer account. Making sure the name of the company and the app matches could also help. This is all conjecture at this point.
  • If you have an iOS app in your pipeline with an unaffected app maker, you should maybe think about rushing the submission. There is no guarantee that your app maker will be able to keep submitting to the App Store forever.
  • Apple has not banned “template apps” retrospectively. This means that your previous iOS apps made with app makers are ok. For now it’s probably safer not to update the app.
  • It would be great if all the affected app makers could work on a unified approach on how to deal with this issue as it affects so many of them. It is a delicate situation as they are all competitors, but we’d happy to facilitate this communication.
  • If anyone has contacts at Apple, it would be very interesting to get a clearer picture: Is this blanket move going to be temporary? Is it just to kill off clone apps? Or is it going to permanently affect all app makers?

Once again, do let us know about information you have regarding this situation as many users are waiting to know what to do next.

  • napcat

    At our company our apps are also being blocked. We are not an “app maker”, and don’t use any “app maker” service, but we have some custom layouts the are used to some types of apps. The content is totally different, the menus are diferente, but the main layout is similar. Our apps are now being blocked by the guideline 4.3 Spam.

    This is a big problem. They rejected our appeal in the new review.

    • Florian (Tooltester Network)

      Hey, thanks for the comment and sorry to hear you’re affected too. Quite a few independent developers have reported the same problem online and it’s very hard to make sense of Apple’s decision at this stage.

      • Vicki

        Everyone, if your apps were removed due to app store’s 4.3 rule, contact me at [email protected]. Let’s fight together! Our aim is to make SAIC file the case, then we may have the chance to talk/negotiate with app store and put pressure on app store to adjust its unreasonable 4.3 rule.

    • napcat

      I hope they go back on their decision to block this kind of apps/content.

      This is going to affect a lot of people, small and big companies and also independente developers. We are debating to find a solution with Apple. If anyone knows anything that might help, I appreciate the sharing of information.

      Does anyone have an Apple contact number? Has anyone had an app approved after being blocked?

    • Florian (Tooltester Network)

      Hi – a question popped up on another thread and I was hoping you could answer: what kind of framework does your company use for building apps?

      This is what a user is suggesting:

      “Goodbarber (Web/Hybrid-app with HTML5/JavaScript parts?!) – iOS submissions declined
      ShoutEm (React Native, which converts directly to native Java/Objective-C) – iOS submissions approved”

      What do you think?

      • napcat

        We are using Ionic (HTML5, Angular4.x, SCSS/CSS3, TypeScript/ES5) as our main framework with custom build scripts.

        We were on the phone with an Apple representative. The information they gave us is they don’t want massive use of the same frameworks. Very popular frameworks could be penalized for this if developers don’t think out of the box. If they use the same framework their apps must feel different, have different content and original UI/UX usability (at least of it’s not native, it seams the exception).

        • Florian (Tooltester Network)

          Very useful info – thanks for that!

          • napcat

            To me it looks like a way of censorship… if you are not native you must work harder and be totally different, that’s the price to pay if you go with a popular framework. If you go native, (or your final result is native source code) ok, then, you are good to go…

        • Alexander Potemkin

          Apologize, was Ionic framework outcome was considered to be not good enough?
          We are about to submit an app build with Ionic and that makes me worrying.

        • @napcat:disqus Does your framework uses backend data for App generation in runtime (I mean view and data) or you compile it everytime you have a change?

          • napcat

            At some point, in the build stage, theres some call to our database. But in “runtime”, when the app is running, only the menu could be changed by the backend. If theres new features/views, a new build needs an a publish to the store needs to be done. We don’t implemented code push (or similar) yet.

      • Theodore Batzakas

        We had our apps rejected too. They are written in Obj-C compiled with Xcode.

        • @theodorebatzakas:disqus Have they specified the reason? Our apps have passed successfully. Though we built them with our own platform with Xamarin. I believe anyone who produce true native App could be rejected for other reasons, like bad UI or lack of useful content.

          • Theodore Batzakas

            They stated rules 4.2.6 and 4.3 but we build online ordering apps for restaurants under contract and we thoroughly test them for usability and performance. It’s the first rejection we get.

          • That’s strange. Can you show an example? The thought in my mind are the Apps visually similar? I.e. looks different just in sense of color, etc. so could be treated as clones.

          • Theodore Batzakas

            Of course they look similar in some sense, they are all online ordering apps based on the current online ordering trend. There is a list with the menu items, a thumb of the dish, descriptions, details pages with items, cart, delivery options etc. Also they have different colors, logos, content, and they are targeted to different clients! One in a city in Europe, another in a city in USA etc. If we have 2000 restaurants it’s impossible to come up with 2000 layouts and 2000 codebases for the same thing! Especially with what is needed to maintain and support with the cost at minimum. no?

          • Florian (Tooltester Network)

            As an user suggested on another thread, the types of apps affected the most are: magazine, city apps, radio apps, university apps, event apps, restaurant apps etc.

            It doesn´t change the fact that they will be rejected, even if native. Apparently the Apple suggestion is to create a wrapper with a directory for multiple apps inside. But everyone feels like they’re playing detective without any clear information still.

          • napcat

            Exactly, at some point it’s what is happening. We build a lot of city apps, university and events apps. They all seems to be blocked. The thing is… the clients, at least our clients, don’t want a wrapper app. They want their brand with an exclusive app, they don’t want to be mixed width other competitors. I search the store for my brand, and I find my app is different from: I search an app aggregator in the store and then I search for my brand/business. The apple suggestions does not fit in this market. It’s theirs store, they can make the rules they want, but they are not thinking in the real implications.

          • Var

            Then maybe you could have 1 app with Multi-stores ???

          • Theodore Batzakas

            This means we have to abandon what we do. We are totally against marketplaces because of the way they work and we target separate restaurants that want to have their own native apps. If we are to become a marketplace then we are out of business.

      • Carlos Zinato

        We’re using Axway Titanium (converts to native) and our event apps are being rejected as well. And we also don’t want to have a single app with all events of different types and competitors, this makes no sense at all.

  • Theodore Batzakas

    I believe that most of the affected platforms are legitimate and serious businesses. It’s unfair to fire developers and lose customers because Apple failed to deal with copycats effectively. My personal opinion is to start a petition (maybe with a service that later can be converted to a formal “provisional and protective measures”) document filed against Apple if they don’t remove this rule. I DO understand that they are the owner of a proprietary service like AppStore but we really need to take care of our endeavours and lives.

    • Florian (Tooltester Network)

      Hi, we agree, this is a very heavy handed approach to the problem. A petition sounds like a good start. We found that app makers aren’t exactly likely to cooperate with one another, but if you want to get something started and post it here we’ll let everyone know about it.

      • Vicki

        If your apps were removed due to app store’s 4.3 rule, contact me at [email protected]. Let’s fight together! Our aim is to make SAIC file the case, then we may have the chance to talk/negotiate with app store and put pressure on app store to adjust its unreasonable 4.3 rule.

    • napcat

      Would you manage to do something like that? A petition seems good ideia, but don’t know if it will be really affective…
      Another project from my company hit the wall, this time an city app. We are seeing no the lights at the end of the tunnel.

      • Theodore Batzakas

        I will help and support it, but I ‘d prefer to have somebody who’s native language is English and will use it more efficiently write it. Also, I think we should keep it to a minimum feasible, for example to at least ask that the rule is changed to be able to send branded apps that have some interactivity to offer and the by nature are not able to be consolidated or tremendously changed in ui (I really don’t believe that anyone can come up with 2000 different-enough ideas for an online shop for mobile device or a restaurant menu). Also, I don’t know if a site like avaaz or something like that makes sense or if there is any other more serious way to push for such requirements. I am open to ideas.

      • Vicki

        If your apps were removed due to app store’s 4.3 rule, contact me at [email protected]. Let’s fight together! Our aim is to make SAIC file the case, then we may have the chance to talk/negotiate with app store and put pressure on app store to adjust its unreasonable 4.3 rule.

  • Gonzalo

    There is a new possibility. Make Casey Neistat hear about this. If he makes a video (he would probably understand and talk about the situation) everyone would new about this. Any thoughts?

  • Gonzalo

    There is a new possibility. Make Casey Neistat hear about this. If he makes a video (he would probably understand and talk about the situation) everyone would knew about this. Any thoughts?

  • Alessandro Aureli

    Hi, any updates ? Goodbarber status quo since 22 Aug

    • Hi Alessandro, unfortunately we don’t have any more recent updates either. Looks like they are still waiting for feedback from Apple. They seem to enjoy the power they hold over the App Store quite a bit.

      • Alessandro Aureli

        Hi Rober, Check out Goodbarber bill board. Some good news came up today (sep 11th) They are changing pricing for future iOS submissions, projects ill be pre-filtred, selected by GoodBarber. It ll be much higher (i suppose) cost for iOS submission per app. Any way things are moving forward.

        • napcat

          Can’t find the details… Do you mind to share the link? Thank you.

          • Alessandro Aureli

            You need a goodbarber account to follow the link

  • Mathew Reay

    With all due respect Florian, you should just rename this article “every app builder is going to have issues so prepare yourself & we have a really good financial agreement with GoodBarber so we continue to praise them even though they cannot publish any apps”. I’ve spoken to Apple and any app that is built using an online drag & drop interface will have issues (regardless of quality) — if you haven’t already spoken to Apple regarding this, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • Alexander Potemkin

      For me it looks a bit engaged, indeed. But BuildFire in written confirmed that they (much less beautiful) apps are perfectly fine in terms of AppStore story and goes online well.

      Can you, please, share more details related to your conversation with Apple?

      • Gary Batson

        Buildfire no longer allows the reseller to publish an app with their developer account. They’re requiring the customer create their own account. Could this have something to do with their success in getting apps approved?

    • Lauren

      TBH, this is the best response on this board so far. I do not know why this website is so far up GB’s behind. They have no good news, no real great plan… there’s nothing making them any different than any other builder at this time

    • Florian (Tooltester Network)

      Hi Matthew, I agree on one point, which is that having a relationship with all these app makers is actually working against the article: most of the companies have now contacted us to say they’re the only ones who have no problems with Apple. We have to update their statements, but as you can imagine it’s hard to verify every single one of them.

      However, I do maintain that GoodBarber are still the most transparent about these issues. You can read their update published yesterday, for instance, which clearly states what is happening, how many apps are successfully submitted and what their new process will be.

      Finally, as you say, only Apple holds the keys to this, so it’s the only real source you’d need. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any consistency in their decisions, which is why we’re trying to “crack the code” here. If you have any good information, feel free to share it with other users.

  • napcat

    Is there any news on this subject?

    Has anyone else been able to successfully contact Apple and get concrete explanations?

  • Peter

    Why are your reviews 100% Biased, I still cant fathom why are you giving a basic app builder like Good Barber so much importance…even my 5 year old can create better apps….we moved to Appy Pie from GoodBarber and these guys are a class apart…in 3-4 attempts they get the app approved!!

  • Edward Bradley

    Goodbarber is flatly telling me that they will not submit any new apps to the ios app store. They are only submitting updates to existing apps. They give no schedule of when they will start submitting new apps and refuse to give any schedule or news. There is no point paying for the monthly fee.

    • napcat

      I was in contact with Apple. They will let us update our current apps, but not submit new ones.

      Probably this is a global change and everyone affected will be able to publish new update to their existing apps. Can anyone confirm this?

      • Vicki

        If your apps were removed due to app store’s 4.3 rule, contact me at [email protected]. Let’s fight together! Our aim is to make SAIC file the case, then we may have the chance to talk/negotiate with app store and put pressure on app store to adjust its unreasonable 4.3 rule.

    • Vicki

      If your apps were removed due to app store’s 4.3 rule, contact me at [email protected]. Let’s fight together! Our aim is to make SAIC file the case, then we may have the chance to talk/negotiate with app store and put pressure on app store to adjust its unreasonable 4.3 rule.

  • Edward Bradley

    There is an obvious solution to this problem. Everyone stop using Apple products and switch to Android.