Surprises In The Apple App Store Review Guidelines

We get asked about a myriad of crazy and wonderful ideas for App Development for iOS / iPhone / iPad / Android. My first piece of advice to all new customers is to read Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines. They contain some wonderful hidden gems that can completely blow an App idea out of the water. Here’s a few of our favourite hidden secrets from the guidelines.

No Emergency Services

Section 5.1.5 of the guidelines contains the sentence “Location-based APIs shouldn’t be used to provide emergency services…”. This means that you should not submit an App to Apple for approval that uses the GPS sensor (or other location detecting mechanisms) for providing the location of the user to emergency services. Presumably the reason for this is so that Apple can (sensibly) avoid being sued if someone dies or suffers serious illness or injury because the location services on their iPhone failed to report the location correctly to the emergency App. If you are thinking that no-one would ever want to create an App that does this, you would be wrong! About five years ago we were approached to build just such an App! Fortunately our knowledge of the guidelines meant that we could immediately tell the customer this before they invested any money in their App idea!

Bypassing Apple’s Digital Subscription Model

Section 3.1.3 (b) of the guidelines says “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.” This means that if your app allows a digital subscription or other digital purchases, you can’t entice the users away from the App to purchase directly on your web site or anywhere else! You could not, for example, provide a link in your App to your web site that allows users to sign up for your service there. Apple want their 30% and you have to give it to them!

No Copying!

Section 4.1 has the wording “Don’t simply copy the latest popular app on the App Store, or make some minor changes to another app’s name or UI and pass it off as your own.” This means that you should not create a new App called “Wingy Birds” just because you like the popular “Flappy Birds” App. Having said that, there do seem to be an awful lot of clone Apps out there on Apple’s store, so many attempts at copying do seem to sneak through. We would strongly advise our clients to never attempt this though!

Do Not Be Creepy

My favourite from section 4.2 is “If your App doesn’t provide some sort of lasting entertainment value, or is just plain creepy, it may not be accepted.” I think that this speaks for itself!


The Apple guidelines are not technical and anyone intending to have an App created should be able to read and understand them. Always be cautious and assume that Apple will reject your App if you are sailing close to the wind. You can always call Apple if you want to get their view, however, they are unlikely to give you a definitive answer, but you will probably be able to read between the lines in their response!

Nick McKenna
Since 2004, Nick McKenna, BSc, MBCS Biography has been the CEO of McKenna Consultants. McKenna Consultants is a bespoke software development based in North Yorkshire, specialising in Cloud development, mobile App development, progressive web App development, systems integration and the Internet of Things development. Nick also holds a First Class Degree in Computer Science (BSc) and wrote his first computer program at the age of nine, on a BBC Micro Model B computer. For the last 21 years, Nick has been a professional computer programmer and software architecture. Nick’s technical expertise includes; Net Core, C#, Microsoft Azure, Asp.Net, RESTful web services, eProcurement, Swift, iOS mobile development, Java, Android mobile development, C++, Internet Of Things and more. In addition, Nick is experienced in Agile coaching, training and consultancy, applying modern Agile management techniques to marketing and running McKenna Consultants, as well as the development of software for clients. Nick is a Certified Enterprise Coach (Scrum Alliance), SAFe Program Consultant (SAI), Certified LeSS Practitioner (LeSS) and Certified Scrum@Scale Practitioner. Outside the office, Nick is a professional scuba diver and he holds the rank of Black Belt 5th Dan in Karate.

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