We all know how difficult it is to get an app published in the App Store.

The web is teeming with tales of woe from developers who think they’re following all the rules, yet repeatedly experience rejection, often with little explanation. Is there a method to Apple’s madness? For the most part, yes, and many have unraveled the mystery.

Apple Grants a Wish

After five years of pleading from the developer community, Apple has finally granted the power for intellectual property (IP) owners to transfer applications between developers. This is significant because application creators have a lot of IP value tied up in these offerings, and until now, it simply wasn’t possible to transfer an app between developers without losing rankings, reviews, and the overall connection to existing customers.

Now that apps can move from developer to developer without losing such valuable metadata, Flippa will soon be launching a new way for app developers to sell their iOS apps. In the meantime, it’s time to polish your expertise in getting that genius application approved.

The Apple iOS App Store Approval Process

Getting an app approved by the Apple iTunes Store is a far more complicated process than for Google Play. Because they have such high volume of traffic and purchases, however, it’s obviously worth your while to master the process and jump through those hoops.

Apple runs each app through an automated test. They also have an assigned reviewer who tests and verifies

  • The user interface
  • The user experience
  • All the application features
  • The functionality of the app

You need to follow all the App Store Review Guidelines down to the letter, or your assigned reviewer will never approve your submission.

Your first step is to obviously create an Apple developer account, review the guidelines above, and read through the Human Interface Guidelines too. Once you feel you’ve got a good grasp on what Apple requires, you may need to make changes to your existing app (whether it’s native or hybrid) in order to proceed.

Yes, the guidelines are verbose, and sometimes they read like legalese. But unless you start to grasp the fine print, you’ll go through more rejection cycles than you can imagine. I’ll be frank with you: your app will most likely get rejected at least once. Don’t be discouraged – you see, there are thousands of applications in the iTunes store, right? Many have weathered the storm! Keep reading for more advice on how to make the process easier.

Top 12 Reasons Why Your App May Be Rejected

By studying the major application pitfalls, you can gain awareness on where many falter and get ahead of the game. We learned that when getting Flippa’s own iOS app ready for submission! Here are some main points you want to avoid.

1. Applications that are too niche often get flagged through the approval process.

Apple is not fond of content created for an extremely specific audience. If you’ve created an app that caters to your local wine tasting crew, that’s not going to fly. Broaden that to fans of a specific wine varietal, and you’re on your way.

2. Submissions that use Apple’s copyrighted images are always, always rejected.

Yes, Apple creates many gorgeous buttons and user interface components, but never get tempted to include those in your application. If you use even a single Apple image without their consent (which they rarely grant), you aren’t getting approved.

3. If you copy the functionality of an existing application, they will notice. Guaranteed.

This is true even if your app is seemingly “inspired by” an existing idea. Since it’s not realistic to assume all applications will feature completely unique content, the key is this: make sure yours is either original, or that it improves on something that already exists. Copycats need not apply.

4. Applications that require a perpetually-connected device are also surefire rejections.

If your content crashes or can’t operate correctly without a network connection, it will not get approved. You have been warned. Make sure it works.

5. Apps that are data hogs often get the axe too.

Be very mindful of the amount of data your submission must download, and remember that there are plenty of users that still have limited cellular data plans. So resist the urge to require a 5MB download every time someone launches your content. It’s true that Apple does not have any specific guidelines here, but many still get rejected for excessive downloads.

6. Applications that abuse the iOS file system are no-nos.

Since iOS 5.1, applications are not allowed to save data on a device that normally gets backed up by iCloud, unless you have the user’s consent. Use the device’s cache instead, or the Local Storage. As a final tip, make sure that anything saved here can’t be overwritten.

7. Applications that take in-app payments but do not use Apple’s In-App purchasing API are definitely going to get the boot.

When you’re in the App Store, you play by their rules. Enough said.

8. Anything labeled a “demo” or “beta version” is also code for “please reject me.”

Apple does not release anything that doesn’t feel like a truly finished, polished product, so avoid these terms at all costs.

9. Do not violate the Human Interface Guidelines

Apple has extremely strict directions on locations, sizes, and formatting for buttons, icons, navigation and all the design elements. Even a small infraction here will result in a resounding “No.”

10. Applications that take a long time to load

Ten seconds is a general benchmark; if yours takes much longer, it’s in jeopardy. That’s a good thing, however, as users won’t tolerate a lengthy load time anyway, so it’s important to get this right.

11. Submissions with .ipa files bigger than 50 MB

Apple requires apps to be manageable in file size, so you’ll need to be mindful of compression and optimization.

12. It needs to be an app, not a mobile website.

Yes, this is a tricky one, but Apple is stickler about maintaining a separate look and feel for applications and mobile sites, so your submission must not feel like the latter. If everything you feature can be accomplished via a mobile site, it probably won’t pass review.

Apple doesn’t create all these rules to give you a headache, but to develop consistency in presenting the highest form of quality and content to their discerning users. Remember that a real human being will review your submission, and mistakes can happen. If you’re rejected for an issue you feel follows the rules implicitly, make sure to provide supporting documentation and you’ll probably get through on the next try.

Over to You

Don’t be discouraged as you read the long list of don’ts. The first time is always the hardest. By the end of the day, this is a process well worth the effort. You’ll get the hang of it eventually. Just remember how fantastic it will feel when you see your creation in the iTunes Store.

Now that you’re aware of some of most common pitfalls, you’re that much more likely to be one of the few, proud, developers that get in with their very first submission. Do you have any plans on publishing any apps in the future? Or maybe you’ve already been successful. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Thanks to Clifford Joseph Kozak for the broken phone photo!!

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