If you have used a branded mobile app for your event, or are considering one for a future program, you have most likely heard about the new Apple App Store container rule that is shaking up the industry. More and more of our clients are incorporating mobile apps for a richer and more engaging experience for their attendees. So, understandably, they have asked us what this means and what can they expect? The simple answer – it depends. But, let’s break it down.
What does the rule say?
In June, at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference, they announced changes to their App Review Guidelines. Of specific interest was Section 4.2.6: “Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected.”
What does the new policy mean?
There continues to be debate as each app company has their own take based on their reading of the rule and/or subsequent conversations with Apple. On the face, it appears providers will no longer be able to submit “one off” single branded event apps into the App Store. While this rule is broad and far reaching it in part touches all app development companies in some way.
As it pertains to our industry, it is widely believed this was put into place to clean up the App Store from many outdated or orphaned apps in preparation for the launch of their new store and have more control (i.e. not unlike the Play Store “Cover Letter” policy from earlier this year). Conference app companies are responding in a variety of ways based on their understanding of the rule. Most of the thoughts swirling around fall into one of three buckets.
The most common thinking is that event apps now publicly distributed in the App Store will have to go into a larger container app. And, it would need to be a container app branded by the development company versus the event host. This has led some to proclaim that the death of the white labeled single event app is at hand. Additionally, there are concerns over the loss of event branding and security since all apps are placed in one container. In response conference app companies are working hard to mitigate the security concern with shortcuts directly to your specific app inside the container. However, the loss of event branding remains a very real concern for event marketing professionals.
Some app companies have interpreted this rule less about whether the app is created by a commercialized template or app generation service, and more about whose Apple License is being used. There is a thought that if the app is being published from the event host’s Apple Developer License it will be allowed as either a multi or single event branded app. Others, while they agree in theory, they do not see it as being as broad as this. They feel there are boundaries to this approach.
• App must be published from company or organization’s developer account
• Needs to be a container app and have at least five (5) events included
• May only have one (1) container per organization
• After a few are published, organization will start seeing rejections from Apple
And, last thought is “our apps are customized and they all differ.” They believe there is enough customization and uniqueness so their apps to not be affected by this rule. However, I am unsure if this philosophy holds true. As I understand it, there will be three main checks Apple will do make sure an app is not coming from a commercialized template or app generation service.
So, what now?
The deadline for this rule to take effect was initially September 30, 2017. However, Apple extended the deadline to December 24, 2017. This is a very nuanced and evolving situation so I would encourage anyone who already has an agreement with an app company to engage with them regarding their interpretation and how they are handling it. Even if you have already spoken with your app company, you might want to re-engage regarding what might have changed since your first conversation to see what other options exist for distribution such as private distribution versus public distribution. Have a backup plan should they be wrong in their interpretation of the rule.
As a third-party event planning company that specializes in mobile design, we are in a unique position because we work with and have been in conversations with many different app providers. They all believe theirs is the perfect solution. Yet, no two companies have the same interpretation. Ultimately, the goal is to mitigate the risk of app rejection by crafting a plan to cover several different scenarios.
If you have questions, concerns, comments or just want to know how we believe this rule may affect your event, based on all of the differing philosophies and approaches, contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.