Apple Updates Guidelines for White Label Apps 2018

Dan Strutt
Jan 10, 2018 · 4 min read

Background

In June each year Apple hold the WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference). Customers and developers from around the world tune in eagerly to hear the latest announcements from the company.

WWDC2017 shook the white label app industry to its core.

Highlights from WWDC2017 included -

  • HomePod (still to be released – Jan 2018) – a smart speaker to take on the Amazon Echo and Sonos.
  • An updated iMac Pro with hugely improved specs.
  • The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro which blew every other tablet out of the water, and re-ignited iPad sales throughout the rest of 2017.
  • ARKit, which instantly became the largest AR platform in the world.
  • iOS11 with improved Siri, auto DND whilst driving. A huge update for iPad with improved multi-tasking, drag and drop and finally a file management app.
  • A redesigned App Store for better app discovery and general ‘tidying up’.

For iOS developers, WWDC is the biggest event in the calendar. Each year sees changes to the App Store Review guidelines. It is not unusual for these guidelines to be opaque and often require interpretation from developers.

As WWDC is a packed event, Apple often place additional information on the screen during the presentation. Little did people realise the disruption one line would cause to the white label app industry last year.

The few words above ‘App Store cleanup’, translated to guidelines – 4.2.6 ‘Apps created from a commercialised template will be rejected’ and guideline 4.3 ‘Spam’, instantly placed thousands of business in jeopardy.

Why?

Typically iOS (and Android) app development costs tens of thousands of pounds. This is beyond the budget of many small businesses. As development costs are expensive, many SMEs chose to use an app development company which reuses existing components, significantly reducing the cost of development.

This worked well for hundreds of thousands of small businesses allowing them to create apps to engage with customers, boost loyalty and ultimately compete with larger corporations.

The wording of 4.2.6 would not only effect almost every small business wanting their own app, but also the thousands of companies who white label app technology to provide the service to their clients.

As a company which opposed the repeal of net neutrality it seemed odd that Apple would prevent businesses with smaller budgets benefiting from apps. In-fact Apple had argued that all businesses have a right to an open internet.

4.2.6 appeared to go against this principle.

Effects

Many white label providers, and businesses building apps using these services soon found they were having apps rejected.

Amongst the rejections were various reasons ranging from 4.3 (spam) to the common rejection of 4.2.6 (commercialised template). When Apple reject an app it is standard practice to respond and ask for clarification.

When asking for clarification, a standard boilerplate response was often given, which did little to help approve the app. A common response would be to combine all apps in a directory type app, which for many business models simply did not make sense.

2017 looked like the end of apps for small businesses, and the white label app industry (there were a few exceptions).

2018 and White Label Apps

Apple have since appended the wording of 4.2.6 to include ‘unless they are submitted directly by the provider of the app’s content’.

The amended terms have re-ignited the white label app industry for thousands of businesses, and put SMEs back on the playing field, able to compete with larger corporates.

Effectively this means each app submitted to the App Store must be published under its own developer account. An iOS developer account costs $99/year. Previously many white label partners would publish hundreds of apps under a single developer account.

This means increased revenue for Apple, and additional expense for small businesses who wish to have their own app. However, it is seen by many as an acceptable middle-ground compared to the alternative.

If you’d like to know more about apps for small business, or white label apps feel free to ask any questions here.

    Dan Strutt

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