App Store or Google Play submission is a key milestone in your journey to getting your app out there. It’s a process shrouded in mystery and with plenty of hurdles to jump. If your app is not properly built, you run the risk of getting it rejected by the App Store after all the hard work you’ve already put in.
To try and demystify this milestone, we’ll take you through the key reasons for rejection, as well as the steps you can take to avoid it. For peace of mind, take a look over Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines, so you know what to expect. It’s best to be aware upfront of the expectations and processes of App Store submission, so you can build these into your app development and not be caught out later down the line.
Here are the main things you should consider during app development:
Apps are checked manually by Apple Store & Google Play
When you submit your app for approval, experts will review your app manually. There are no workarounds for an automated system, it’s a real-life person checking your app for bugs and for a smooth user experience. Bear that in mind when you feel tempted to cut corners.
Apple has a closed ecosystem approach
Apple’s closed ecosystem approach might be frustrating for developers, but it makes for a robust app review process. Apple has to maintain control over all its connected products and systems, hence why its approval process for third-party apps is more strict than Google Play’s.
According to Apple Insider, the App Store rejected over 150,000 apps in 2020, so it definitely pays to understand the criteria to avoid delays in getting your app approved and out to users.
Everytime you change the app, it has to be resubmitted for review
Build this into your timelines! Every time you submit your app for approval, it can take anywhere from a couple of hours to several days to go through the review process. If you submit before you’re done making amends, you’ll only have to do it again if it’s rejected for being incomplete or if you add something new. That’s a real headache.
Why would your app be rejected?
There are some hard and fast rules around what an app needs to have in order to be eligible for the App Store or Google Play. Ensuring your app is checked and tested for the below factors throughout design and development means you can iron out any issues before they show up during the submission process.
Here are some of the key reasons why apps face App Store rejection and what you can do to avoid them.
User experience should be front of mind in the app design and development process. Your interface should be well designed, intuitive, accessible and easy to use. Complex navigation or a clunky framework almost always means App Store rejection. Avoid it by using best practice to develop your UI. You can find guidance in a variety of resources from Apple, such as the Human Interface Guidelines or the UIKit framework with its adaptable components, or by working with a dedicated and experienced app development team who know how to create a beautiful and user-friendly UI that will get approved.
Make sure your content is squeaky clean! When planning your app content, brainstorm with your team - and with your audience if you can - as to whether anything you have in mind may offend or upset your users. If your app will encourage user-generated content, ensure you implement filters and reporting tools to restrict inappropriate content. The app stores promise users a safe experience, so the apps they approve have to offer that too. Any mentions of sensitive or controversial topics and dangerous behaviour (think gambling, drug abuse and racism) are automatically rejected. For obvious reasons.
Incomplete or inaccurate metadata
Metadata’s all that fiddly content that shows up on the App Store page that previews your app to users. It includes things like a description of your app, age ratings, payment options, privacy information and screenshots. If this information is incomplete or inaccurate, the App store is likely to reject your app. Metadata should be accurate and clear, so it doesn’t mislead users into downloading something they weren’t expecting. Your app icon and screenshots should accurately reflect the brand and in-app experience, while the description should clearly state your app’s functionality and purpose. Ensure you flag in-app purchases, free features and subscription options and rate your app for the correct age group.
Slow loading times
There’s not a lot more frustrating for users than a slow loading app. If users are likely to quit or uninstall due to slow loading times, the App Store won’t approve it for distribution. To speed up loading, you can make simple improvements at development stage, such as optimising your code, simplifying the UI and compressing images. Ensure server connections are efficient, or consider using a content delivery network. If you can’t avoid long load times (for example, if you’ve created a gaming app), stick a loading screen on it that displays game tips and tricks to distract users.
Placeholder content hasn’t been updated
If ever there was a sign to not rush to get your app out, it’s when placeholder content is left in an app. Often written in Latin, placeholder content is stuck into your app during development to show where copy will be once the app is out there. Leaving it in there after deployment is just sloppy - but it’s actually quite common. Especially when you’re up against tight deadlines and haven’t got a designer and copywriter on board to run a pass. When placeholder content remains in your app, it signals to the App Store or Google Play that you haven’t finished your final checks, leading them to reject your app. Avoid it by ensuring you build in time to run through every single word of content in the app and update it.
It’s a replica
Don’t rip anyone off - that’s key to unique app development. Do your research so you can create an experience that stands apart. An original design and thoughtful UI will help to differentiate your app, but if your concept is uncomfortably close to something that’s already out there in the market, you may need to go back to the drawing board. The App Store and Google Play review thousands of apps every day, so they can spot replicas and copies of existing apps that have just tweaked a few things and tried to pass as unique. The more original your app is, the more likely it is to be approved.
The app will share personal user data
The software and hardware don’t mix
Developing an app that’s designed to run on all devices? Make sure it works! Whether that’s on a bigger screen, in a different orientation or another operating system. An adaptive layout should use high resolution images that won’t blur and auto resizing. The app should also not experience performance issues from issues such as excessive battery and memory usage and heat generation, so reduce background processes as much as possible. A well thought out universal app is the best way to get App Store approval.
You’ve used a private API
A private API is a function or class that, according to Apple, is undocumented, used internally and has unguaranteed functionality. Using one will warn Apple and cause the App Store to reject your app, or replace a private API with a public one, affecting your app’s workability. Ensure you are using a public API and functions and classes that appear in Apple’s SDK.
Bugs and crashes happen during review
Awkward! That moment when a bug shows up at review stage. There’s no wiggle room here - Apple will straight up reject an app that bugs out or crashes during review. Anticipate the rigorous testing process the App Store will put your app through by performing these tests yourself in advance. Think stress and performance tests, running the app on all devices and using bug reporting tools. While you might not catch every single possible snag, eliminating major errors should mean you gain approval.
The app is unfinished
You’re up against deadlines. You cut some corners. You submitted your app incomplete to the App Store. It got rejected. Apple won’t accept an app that’s incomplete or that it deems to still be in beta stage, so you need to make sure your pre-submission checks are watertight. Make sure you’ve ticked off even the little things: checking that features work, removing placeholder content, clicking links to see if they take you anywhere, ensuring your version number is up to date and that your app name is spelt correctly (here’s your prompt to delete ‘alpha’ or ‘beta’!). The best way to test and trial your app in its entirety before you even submit it is to deploy it on a platform like TestFlight and to create a test account that reviewers can use to flag any issues they spot.
While there are plenty of reasons why your app could get rejected, if you stick to best practice and bear in mind all the above factors, you give yourself a good chance. Essentially, the key is to create a well-designed, one-of-a-kind, high-quality app experience for your users that leaves no detail unconsidered. Then you can rely on App Store approval.
Want to know how we can help you create an incredible app that gets approved first time? Let’s chat.