Apple Updates App Store Guidelines to Relax Restrictive Rules on Template Apps

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Apple in June tweaked its App Store Review guidelines to add a new rule banning apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service, a move that ended up impacting small businesses without the resources to independently develop an app.

Many niche template-created apps for small restaurants, retailers, and other businesses were not allowed under the new rule, which also affected the companies that build those sorts of apps. Following media attention and feedback from small business owners, Apple today amended the rule to make it less restrictive, reports TechCrunch.

An example of a restaurant app created using a ChowNow template

The original rule, in section 4.2.6 of the App Store guidelines, read “Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected.” The new wording of the rule, located below, is more expansive and clarifies exactly what’s allowed and what’s not.

Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected unless they are submitted directly by the provider of the app’s content. These services should not submit apps on behalf of their clients and should offer tools that let their clients create customized, innovative apps that provide unique customer experiences. Another acceptable option for template providers is to create a single binary to host all client content in an aggregated or “picker” model, for example as a restaurant finder app with separate customized entries or pages for each client restaurant, or as an event app with separate entries for each client event.

Under the revised guidelines, small businesses that use template-style apps can continue to use them, but those apps must be submitted by the business itself rather than the template provider. Apple also suggests template providers can create something like a restaurant finder app, with the ability to search for all client restaurants rather than creating individual cookie cutter apps for each restaurant.

All apps published on the App Store going forward will need to be handled by the business or organization behind the app, and to make the transition simple, Apple is going to waive its $99 developer fee for government and nonprofit apps in the U.S. in early 2018.

In addition to changing its template app guidelines, Apple today tweaked a few other rules. Apps that offer in-app purchase “loot boxes” or other mechanisms that include randomized virtual items are now required to disclose the odds of receiving each type of item.

Apple has also clarified that virtual currency apps offering Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), cryptocurrency futures trading, and other crypto-securities or quasi-securities trading must come from established banks, securities firms, futures commission merchants, or other approved financial institutions.

One last rule applies to VPN apps. Apps that offer VPN services are required to use the NEVPNManager API and must make it clear what user data is collected and how it is used. VPN apps must also follow local laws, and VPN apps in a territory where a VPN license is required must provide license information in the App Review Notes field when submitting an app.

Apple’s full App Store review guidelines are available on its developer website.

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