Get through app store review process: the complete guide

App review process has a bad reputation. The number of guidelines and rules you have to follow is massive and since the process is partly automated, getting to know why an app gets rejected is like walking through the mist.

But don’t lose your heart! We are here to help your app get through the review process.

In this article, you will get to know how the app store review process looks like, how long it usually takes and what rules you have to follow to successfully add your app to Apple App Store and Google Play.

APP REVIEW PROCESS

OK, let’s do this! Your app is ready, your marketing campaign is just about to start. All you need to do is to put your product on a shop shelf – add it to one of the most popular marketplaces where almost all apps can be found.

You’ve set up a developer account, chosen the price and countries of distribution, determined app’s content rating (check how adding app to app store looks here) and finally clicked the publish button. Is your app already in app stores?

Well, no. In order not to change app stores into a rubbish dump where every software can be possibly harmful, Google and Apple decided to set some rules so that they can ensure users safety and high quality of applications. And to enforce such rules they created a review process, prior to app release. This means that publishing your app in their app stores isn’t automatic – you have to wait a while for them to check your app.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE

App review process consists of a set of tests, both automatic and manual. Although Google and Apple don’t share their methods to avoid deceit, we do know some things about the whole process already.

Google Play is well-known for its review algorithm which helps to quickly go through the app and check it for any abusive content or bugs and viruses. No wonder that in this marketplace, you will probably see your app published within only 1-3 hours after submitting your product.

Of course, it depends on an app, but the poll results from a recognized Android community show how much time it took them to get their app published in app stores.
 
Android app review times
 
In comparison, Apple claims to do the testing manually. That’s why it used to take them around 7+ days – quite a lot comparing to Google Play. The difference was so huge that in 2016 Apple cut review times down to what is said around 24 hours. You can check the current trend here.
 
App Store review times
 
Since 2015, Google Play also decided to test their apps manually but it doesn’t impact the amount of time needed to complete their review process – which still is only a couple of hours.

Google Play offers Timed Publishing option – you can submit your app, wait for it to be reviewed and once everything is alright, click the Go Live button at the time of your choice. This way, you can choose the exact time your app is published and adjust it to your marketing campaign.

PLATFORM-SPECIFIC GUIDELINES

So you know that there are rules you have to follow to make your app live in app stores and you are aware that Google and Apple will check thoroughly whether you comply with them. Now, it’s time to learn what conditions you have to meet. And as with anything in the mobile world, it depends on whether you have Android or iOS in mind.

ANDROID: DOS AND DON’TS

Android is known for being quite strict when it comes to certain functionalities and aspects of your app. Still, it’s more open than Apple:

One of the reasons why lots of people choose Android over iOS is its “openness.” Not only does the platform itself provide us with more freedom to do different things Apple wouldn’t allow, but the Google Play Store offers a whole host of Android apps that iOS users can’t have.

- Killian Bell, Cult of Android

Android’s guidelines include the spheres described below.

  • Restricted content – Your Android app cannot include any sexually explicit content, especially containing child sexual abuse. Google also doesn’t allow apps that depict violence or include hate speech and bullying and harassment. And that’s also valid for User-Generated Content – you need to make sure that your app has sufficient safeguards against such content, e.g. requires to sign a policy document, enables to report abuses and removes abusive content. What’s more, an Android app cannot facilitate or promote illegal activities – these include drugs as well as alcohol and tobacco for minors. Also, gambling apps are partly restricted – you can check which rules a gambling app should follow here.
  • Intellectual Property, Deception and Spam – Google protects intellectual property so if you want to include any pictures from unreliable sources or think of using to your advantage any brands or trademarks that you are not allowed to use, think twice. It’s just not worth it. The marketplace also protects users from spam or any content that can be misleading to them so that the quality of apps in the store is kept high.
  • Privacy and Security – Do you plan to handle user data in your app? If so, don’t forget about posting a privacy policy in your app, transmitting them through cryptography and storing data carefully. Of course, you also have to follow the legal rules of the country you operate in. In terms of security, you can only play with your own app. Don’t interfere with the user’s device, API, servers or networks in a destructive or abusive way – e.g. apps which uninstall or damage other apps are strictly prohibited. Of course, any malicious software such as viruses is also forbidden.
  • Monetization and Ads – Planning in-app purchases? Remember that you have to use Google Play In-app Billing as the method of payment (with exception of shopping apps where you buy something in an app but receive it in real life). Thinking of ads as a monetization strategy? Keep in mind that they are treated by Google as a part of your app so you have to make sure they comply with all Google Play guidelines.
  • Store Listing and Promotion – In order to keep the apps relevant for users, Google regulates also marketing practices. The marketplace doesn’t allow deceptive promotion tactics nor inappropriate metadata in app title and description. Also, trying to get good reviews by offering discounts and coupons or similar tactics is forbidden.
  • Families and COPPA – Planning to create a child app? You’ll need to join the Designed for Families program then. In order to protect kids, members of this program are obliged to follow the additional set of rules, including certain ads rules and excluding some functionalities. You can find a detailed list here.

Do you have any specific functionality you are afraid it can be rejected? Check here for a set of additional guidelines, valid in specific situations.

IOS: DOS AND DON’TS

In general, Apple App Store rules are similar to those of Google Play store. After all, the law is over the app marketplaces and they also have to comply with it. There are, however, some differences which are worth mentioning as the Apple App Store policy is considered stricter than the one of Google.

I think for the majority of users the fact that the iOS App Store is “closed” — if you want to put it that way — is a major plus. There are less security concerns, fewer ripoff apps, a lot less clones, and generally just a sense that the whole enterprise is better regulated, managed, and of higher quality.

- Luke Dormehl, Cult of Mac

Below you can find the most important rules you have to follow in App Store (the whole set can be found here).

  • Safety – Some content is considered harmful by the app stores and it seems Apple is more strict about what can and what cannot be included in apps. The company prohibits depictions of weapons, racist suggestions and religious comments or misleading religious texts. Also, such categories as health and apps for kids include additional rules so that no harm is caused. Apple also requires developers to show up-to-date contact information about themselves so that any user can contact the developer in case of questions or support issues.
  • Performance – Apple takes software safety even more seriously than Google Play. Thanks to its human review process, it is able to reject more malware software than the latter. Apps submitted to App Store should be complete, tested and of high quality. Any software must go along with APIs and Kits that Apple offers for its OS and be available on multiple Apple devices – e.g. both iPhones and iPads. To ensure users get exactly what they expect, Apple also pays attention to the accurate use of metadata in the app description, screenshots, and previews.
  • Business – A lot of iOS apps are paid so issues such as app purchases or return policy are described in detail in Apple policy. For example, binary options trading is not allowed in App Store nor is monetizing built-in capabilities provided by the hardware or the operating system, such as push notifications or arbitrarily restricting who may use the app, e.g. by location or carrier. Apple is, however, OK with gambling as long as you follow the rules existing in your country of operation.
  • Design – Of course, copying already existing apps is not welcome in App Store, nor is using content for which you don’t have copyrights. However, App Store also restricts apps which have only promotional purpose as well as multiple versions of the same app (spamming). Even ugly apps can be restricted – Apple wants its App Store to be a marketplace for pretty and high-quality apps so following its minimum design standards is obligatory.
  • Legal – Apps in app stores must comply with all legal requirements in any location where you make them available. That’s why legal issues may differ from one place to another. The most important things you should pay attention to are: data collection and use, health, fitness and medical data, intellectual property and kids rights.

 
 
Still feel uncertain on how to comply with all the terms and conditions of the most popular app stores? Our team can do that for you! We provide our clients with services like setting up an account on app stores, adding your app to the marketplaces and making sure that the app we develop is fully compatible with Google and Apple guidelines – from the very beginning.
 
Want to work with us? Just fill in the form below and get a free no-worry estimation for your mobile app project.

Katarzyna Lorenc
Marketing Specialist

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