12 Common Pitfalls of Submitting Your App to The App Store

After running the gauntlet of development, bug fixes, design, bug fixes, merge conflicts, and, well, even more bug fixes, you’re finally ready to release your dream app to the world

That’s so exciting! And should be cause for major celebration. But before we bust out the champagne, there’s one crucial step that still needs to be completed: submitting your app to The App Store. 

With over two million apps (and counting) now in the iOS app store, entering such a crowded market isn’t as easy peasy as it once was. Apple’s approval process has also changed to match the ever-growing demand, becoming even more rigorous and strict. 

The bottom line is that your app will be reviewed by different people at different times, each with a slightly different perspective and opinion. We always tell our clients that getting the app through the approval process is the part over which we have the least control.  If you go into the process expecting at least one rejection for something you missed, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Not to worry, though! 

We’ve compiled a list of the top 12 most common pitfalls of submitting your app to The App Store to help you avoid app store rejection and gain that beautiful checkmark of approval. 

Technical Reasons for App Store Rejection

There are generally two categories of reasons why The App Store could reject your app. We’re first going to talk about some of the technical reasons. 

1. Bugs and System Failures

We will reject incomplete app bundles and binaries that crash or exhibit obvious technical problems.
Guideline 2.1 – App Completeness

When you’re in the middle of the nitty-gritty testing process, check for unstable performance and ongoing crashes before submitting it for review. Apple isn't the biggest fan of apps that contain pesky bugs or system failures and is almost guaranteed to reject an app that contains them. Rule of thumb: make sure your app works like a charm before you submit it. 

2. Poor Performance

It doesn’t matter how amazingly cool your app looks or how entertaining it is, Apple expects it to run without a hitch. If the home screen causes confusion or frustration, if navigation is wonky, and/or if pages take forever and a day to load – users will be unhappy. Apple will prevent that from happening with a big, fat rejection. Sad face emoji. 

3. Privacy

All apps must include a link to their privacy policy in the App Store Connect metadata field and within the app in an easily accessible manner.
Guideline 5.1.1 – Privacy – Data Collection and Storage

Apple has a tight-as-nails privacy policy requirement for all apps that appear in the iOS app store. 

This includes:

  • Placing a privacy policy statement in your metadata.
  • Providing an explanation of your data retention policies.
  • Enabling users to withdraw consent to data collection, among other things.

There are two kinds of links it requires apps to have. First, all apps must include a direct link to Support, along with contact information.

Secondly, if you have an app for children or there is a subscription service offered through the app, you must include a link to a Privacy Policy page.

If you’re not already, make sure you’re compliant with GDPR as well as with Apple’s privacy policy.

4. Broken Links

Submissions to App Review, including apps you make available for pre-order, should be final versions with all necessary metadata and fully functional URLs included; placeholder text, empty websites, and other temporary content should be scrubbed before submission.
Guideline 2.1 – Performance – App Completeness

Apple has been very vocal about calling out broken links as one of the top reasons for rejecting an app. If you haven’t taken the time to walk through your mobile app and test out each page and link, do that now! Okay, maybe not right now. You can finish reading this blog first. But you’ll definitely want to make sure you do this before submitting your app to The App Store. 

5. Hardware and Software Compatibility

We noticed that your app did not run or display as expected when viewed on [Apple’s latest devices].
Guideline 2.4.1 – Performance – Hardware Compatibility

Per Apple’s guidelines, your app must work on all the latest systems–hardware and software. They’ve also placed extra importance on apps’ ability to run on the iPad, so take note of that for your future tests.

Apps must also be designed so that they don't overuse resources or strain devices (e.g. excessive heat, battery drain, etc.). In other words, if your app doesn't efficiently work on every Apple mobile device...Houston, we've got a problem.

6. Payment System

Use payment mechanisms other than in-app purchases to unlock features or functionality in the app.
Guideline 3.1.1 – Payments –  In-App Purchase

If your app requires a form of payment to allow the user to download digital content, transactions must be processed through Apple’s official in-app purchasing system. This is just to make sure that money is securely transferred via Apple’s marketplace. 

We have even seen rejections during the review process for having a link in the app to a website to sign up and pay for seminars. Even though this was content that was not related to the app, anything that seems to be money changing hands outside of their payment system will draw attention. For a case like that, we were able to appeal the rejection, but there certainly could be cases where that functionality must be dropped, or made less direct.

7. Lacking Standard Functionality

Your app appears to be a pre-release, test, or trial version with a limited feature set. Apps that are created for demonstration or trial purposes are not permitted on the App Store.>>
Guideline 2.2 –  Performance

Creating a mobile app for the wrong reasons is just…wrong. But it could also result in app store rejection.

The key thing to remember is that a mobile app must be useful and give value to the consumer. If all you want to do is share a contact form, and there’s no other incredible functionality or features to the app, then there’s really no reason to have it in the first place, right? Right. Be the app you wish to see in the world. I think Gandhi said that once. Or maybe it was Michael Scott. 

It’s important to note here that demo content or trial versions should also be avoided. All content in your app must be real and final.

Content-Related Reasons for App Store Rejection

Now that we’ve touched on the technical reasons for app store rejection, let’s briefly chat about the second type which focuses on content. Or lack thereof. 

8. Copycat of Another App

Are a duplicate of another app or are conspicuously similar to another app.
Guideline 4.1 – Design – Copycats

You mayyyyyy want to think twice before piggybacking off of the latest mobile craze. Apple will probably look at it as an unwelcome addition to its market (along with the 15 other versions of it already out there…). 

There's another side of this as well.  "White-Label Apps" (apps that are written once, then rebranded for multiple companies) have to be submitted by each company.  One company is not allowed to submit the same app for multiple clients. We recently developed an app for a client that specifically wanted a white label so they could resell it. After understanding that they would have to be setting up certificates and everything else for every client, we worked with them to find an alternate path.

Want to avoid app store rejection? Use those creative juices to develop your own unique app and content! 

9. Inaccurate Description

You’ll want to make sure your app description is as short, sweet, and accurate as possible. Another thing you’ll want to ensure is that your app doesn’t describe itself as something it’s not. I got today’s Wordle in just two tries but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a genius. The same goes for your mobile app. If your description misleads users to download the app, you’ll find yourself in hot water. And that’s a place no one wants to be in. 

10. Poor UI

Before designing your app, you’ll want to spend some time getting up to speed with Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines. They’ll provide you with a good baseline on how to successfully design a user interface that leads to good results. As you can see from the example below, there are clear dos and don’ts when it comes to designing mobile interfaces. Do the do, not the don’t. 

11. Bad UX

The very first thing you should ask yourself during the testing phase is: “Is my app easy to use?” This includes reviewing the navigation, the customer journey through design, as well as custom features and functionality you’ve introduced to the app. If it doesn’t comply with standard iOS design specifications, it may be time to take it back to the drawing board. 

12. Incomplete Information

The last reason why Apple might reject your app is if the information you provide for the store and for review purposes is incomplete or out-of-date. In other words, make sure to include:

  • Your contact details
  • The title, description, specifications, and other details about the app
  • Categorization information
  • Special configuration notes
  • Demo video if there’s something regarding hardware or software you have to explain.

The more thorough you are with your information, the better. 

Final Notes

You hopefully now have a newfound or refreshed understanding of how the App Store submission process works, and of the common pitfalls that could lead to App Store review rejections. Following the tips we discussed above will improve your chances of getting speedy approvals consistently so you can spend less time thinking about and managing your release process, and more time building badass apps.

Speaking of which… if you’re ready to begin your app journey, let’s chat! Our dedicated team of developers is ready to help you get started!