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Why Apple Rejected this App 6 times for Out-Of-App Purchase Adverts

March 03, 2023Sadiq Damani3 min read

An app store icon with text saying Rejected

Stories of Mobile App Store Rejections

This series of blogs uncovers the nuanced reasons why Google and Apple may reject your Mobile Application entering their App Stores. Whilst both entities publish why apps may be rejected, sharing real examples of mobile apps being rejected by the stores provides subtle & intricate learnings. This knowledge is essential for all mobile app developers and their stakeholders to be aware of as it can push back your go-to market by weeks, or even months.

The TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read)

  • Apple will reject your app if they think a user can see an advert to purchase outside of the application, causing Apple to miss out on their 30% transaction fee
  • If your app opens a web view to your website and there’s an advert/purchasing option on there, Apple will likely pick up on this and reject your app’s submission to the store - you must be on top of your web views!

What Was The Issue?

We were submitting a new mobile application built in React Native to the stores. Google was a breeze, Apple put up a fight.

The first set of issues that Apple cited were relatively standard and easy tweaks. For example, in order to release a media app in China, you needed a specific license, which we didn’t upload with our submission. The product was not designed with the Chinese market in mind, so we simply deselected this.

The recurring issue was an infringement of 3.1.1, which covered Business, Payments, and In App Purchases. For apps with a paid subscription, Apple takes a 30% cut of the subscription fee in the first year.

The application itself does not sell any goods or services. But to gain access to the app, you did need to purchase a premium subscription online (web) which came with exclusive access to the application. But this wasn’t the issue Apple had with the application.

The issue was that a user could see an advert for purchasing a subscription. As In App Purchases were not a feature yet, Apple felt that this was an infringement as the app was encouraging a purchase outside of the application and therefore Apple felt they were missing out on their 30% fee.

Assuming the 30% fee is a fair rule, then this is a legitimate challenge from Apple. But the reality was quite different.

The Irony

To explain the irony, the screenshot which Apple provided made it clear that the advertisement was in a web view.

I.e. the flow for the user was therefore:

Go to the website ⇒ Purchase a subscription ⇒ Get access to the app & download ⇒ Navigate through the app ⇒ Accidentally see a web view showing an advert to a subscription you’ve already paid for ⇒ Apple think they’re missing out on a potential 30% fee, but the user has already paid for this prior to getting access to the app!

The Journey to Finding a Solution

Whilst Apple cited this issue, they did not share where or how they found this advert. This left it on our shoulders to diagnose the issue and then come up with solutions.

It was clear from the screenshots that the view was not a mobile view, rather a web view. Therefore we needed to see where a user could potentially navigate to a web view. There were four culprits; Registration, Login, Podcasts, Quizzes. After removing one and resubmitting, but still getting the same rejection from Apple, we’d try the next and so on using a Trial & Error approach.

We were left with Login & Registration, all links that we could see were disabled yet we were still getting rejected. Apple still would not tell us how they managed to navigate to this web view. Through some detective work & luck, we realised there was a link that opened a web view if the user pressed the brand’s logo in the corner of the screen on the Login page. From here they could then see the main website, and therefore the advert to purchase a subscription (which Apple wanted a cut of even though the user had already paid for this in order to get access to the application in the first place) was displayed.

Learnings to Share

  • Apple may not be too useful in telling you how/why they have rejected your submission beyond their initial reason for rejecting
  • Each resubmission would take a few days to get feedback
  • Replying to the rejection email would typically trigger a reply the same day
  • It would seem that when a new app is being submitted, Apple is much stricter than when reviewing an already approved app that is being resubmitted as an update that solves bug fixes or brings additional new features