App Store Submission Tips to Avoid the Dreaded Rejection

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An app rejection is not the end of your life - so deal with it without getting hysterical. If you search the internet you're going to see that many app developers flip out over an app rejection. Again, that's a waste of time and energy.

Rejections come in various flavors. The first one isn't quite a rejection. It's the dreaded Your App Requires Additional Review Time email. In this case, the initial reviewer has seen something that requires a look by someone higher up or more specialized, so your app gets kicked to a different reviewer. A common cause of this is:

  • Using graphics or music you don't have copyright or right to use
  • Using a name or phrase in your app name or description that is trademarked

These are common reasons for more review time, but not all cases are described by these situations. If your app is requiring more review time for these reasons, it's going to get rejected.

Often, additional review time means there is a technical issue. In one case I had removed ads from an app but had left the ad serving frameworks in the app. I was instructed to remove these and resubmit the app.

Not all app requires additional review time cases will be rejected, so don't make that assumption. Also, time required can range from a day to more than a month. Sorry but that's the way it is. Sitting around stressing out over it is another waste of time and energy - so take care of other tasks related to your business while you're waiting to hear about the approval or rejection.

When an app is rejected, they will direct you to the Resolution Center. Log into itunes connect, and then open the page for the app (going to the app details page). There you'll see the resolution center which will tell you why the app was rejected. If they think you don't have rights for graphics or music but you do and can document it, you can submit proof here. It will probably take some time for them to get back to you. It's also possible to submit an appeal to the "app review board" here. I tried that once, and didn't have much luck.

Often an app will be rejected for metadata. This means you just have to change the app title, keywords, screen shots, or text description of the app. For example suppose you had created an app called MixItUp with The Beatles. Now, obviously "The Beatles" is trademarked, so you can't use it in your app title. If you app name (on the binary) is MixItUp, a metadata change request would probably entail changing the title to MixItUp - unofficial edition featuring the Beatles. The change seems trivial but Apple is picky about not giving users the impression that you're associated with a given product, group, or service. They also might make you remove trademarked words that you're using as keywords, or change screenshots that include copyrighted material.

In a metadata change you don't have to actually recompile and submit your app again, you just make the metadata change and click "Submit new metadata". Your app goes back to "Waiting for Review", but usually in these cases the app will go back into review and get approved in a day or two.

If your binary is rejected, you will have to fix the problem, resubmit and go to the end of the line. Unfortunately its like starting over from scratch, so plan on waiting up to a week before its reviewed again.

The key to surviving all this is to remember you're running a business. You're thinking long term, and the lifetime of the app might be several years. So a couple of weeks getting it submitted for sale is trivial.

A few tips to avoid rejection

Sometimes Apple's decisions seem arbitrary and capricious. However most of the time its not - follow the rules to avoid rejection. A few key tips:

Don't submit pornographic images. We can complain about Apple being uptight, but its their store and they create the rules. You know what they are ahead of time so follow them before creating apps.

Read the Human Interface Guidelines provided on Apple lays their rules out for you. Read it and familiarize yourself with the rules, and this will help you avoid rejections.

  • Don't use others copyrighted images, either in your app or in your metadata.
  • Avoid using trademarked words or phrases in your app title or keywords. Hoping to get app traffic using them is scammy anyway. Make money by providing value for your customers, not by trying to scam them into buying your app with cheap search tricks.
  • If you create an app relying on a famous game or person, make it clear that the app is "unofficial". Use the term unofficial in your app title and description. Don't use the person or games name in your app name (i.e. create Photo Fan app - Justin Beiber Edition, not Justin Beiber Photo Fan App).
  • Don't try to collect user information on the device using UDID
  • Don't spam the store. You can create multiple slot machine or poker apps, but Apple frowns on releasing the same utlity app ten times.
  • Avoid using foul language or realistic graphic violence.
  • If you use third party libraries, check to ensure that they are compliant.

We can't forsee all reasons for app rejection, but following these basic rules will help you avoid a great deal of rejections. If your app does get rejected, don't flip out and give up, just do what they request and resubmit.