App-like apps in the App Store
Next week marks the start of March. The 3rd of March also marks the date the new App Store Guidelines regarding HTML5 will go in to effect.
The update is clear. If you are building an app that offers real money gaming, lotteries, or charitable donations then you cannot use content that is not inside the binary. Specifically section 4, 5 and 6 of the App Store guidelines make this clear.
It’s good that Apple makes it explicit at least for these category of apps. They still have the big 4.2 catch all guideline in place though.
Your app should include features, content, and UI that elevate it beyond a repackaged website. If your app is not particularly useful, unique, or “app-like,” it doesn’t belong on the App Store.
I mean, this could probably apply to nearly every app in the App Store. In Dutch traffic law we have something called a ‘Kapstokartikel. This loosely translates to ‘Coat rack law’. It basically means that even if you aren’t breaking any of the predefined laws, but you are doing something reckless in traffic you can still be fined.
Apple’s 4.2 guideline feels a bit like this. Which is great for Apple, less great for developers trying to figure out if they can develop certain features for their app.
One more thing about the initial news article that notifies developers of this change.
The App Store Review Guidelines are designed to help developers create apps that are secure, high-quality, reliable, and that respect user privacy. In order to ensure this, we’ve always specified that all apps be self-contained bundles. This means that the core features and functionality of the app must be contained within the software’s binary, rather than made possible by referring users outside of the approved app — including through the use of HTML5. Apps that dynamically provide core features and functionality with web technology like HTML5 are best delivered through Safari, rather than through the curated App Store.
Although the current change only applies to certain set of App categories. The introduction makes it clear that this is something more generic that Apple has on it’s mind. It feels very much as the time that Apple pointed at Auto layout and said ‘Hey, you should use this, this is very cool’ only to introduce multiple iPhone sizes six months down the road, and requiring apps to support those sizes nine months later.