App Store Subscription Guidelines and Apple’s New Subscription Services

April 4th, 2019

App Store Subscription Guidelines and Apple’s New Subscription Services
David Bell

by David Bell

CEO at Gummicube, Inc.

The release of Apple’s News+ subscription service, along with other upcoming services, has left many developers nervous about how they are going to compete. While App Store Optimization can help developers remain competitive even with Apple as a rival, the company appears to be taking a “do as I say, not as I do” stance for its own subscription guidelines.

App Store Guidelines

As reported by CNBC, Apple is promoting a free trial of its Apple News+ service with formatting that would be rejected by its own review process. For instance, the App Store has the following guidelines for subscriptions:

Fully describe the subscription terms so that people can make an informed decision. Before signing up, people need to know what they're getting, and understand how payment, auto-renewal, and subscription management work. Provide the information listed below in both the app description on your App Store product page and in your app's sign-up screen.

• Subscription name, duration, and the content or services provided during each subscription period• The following information about how users are charged and can manage the subscription:• Payments are charged to the user’s Apple ID account at confirmation of purchase.• Subscriptions automatically renew unless the user cancels at least 24 hours before the end of the current period.• The account is charged for the renewal within 24 hours before the end of the current period.• Users can manage and cancel subscriptions in their account settings on the AppStore.• A link to your app's Terms of Use

However, Apple does not include the fine print on its own News+ page, and the $9.99/month subscription price is listed in a very small font. Similarly, users are noting that News+ stops working once the subscription is cancelled, even if time remains in the free trial period.

This comes at the same time as Spotify is launching its “Time to Play Fair” campaign. The company is accusing Apple of anti-competitive behavior, preventing developers like Spotify from notifying users of deals, blocking upgrades and applying its tax unequally. The appearance of a double standard for Apple’s guidelines would reinforce Spotify’s claims.

What Developers Should Do

While it may seem as though Apple is bending the rules to its advantage, it is the owner of the platform. This does not mean that third-party developers can emulate the tactics for their own apps – following the guidelines is essential for an app to get approved for the App Store.

The App Store Review Guidelines provide a clear set of rules developers must follow. For subscription apps, this includes rules for accessibility, free trial periods and the subscription information presented to users.

While News+ and similar subscription services from Apple may have a “home team advantage” on the Apple App Store, that does not guarantee that competing apps will be unable to compete with them. App Store Optimization can help an app appear in searches for relevant terms. A news app that isn’t News+ can still show up in “news app” searches with properly optimized metadata, while well-designed creatives can increase its click-through rate and conversions.

Follow the Guidelines

Most importantly, developers must still follow the letter of Apple’s guidelines. If an app is not compliant with them, it risks being rejected or removed. Rejection can cause the developer to miss out on deploying a new build and new keywords, which would set them behind schedule and impact their mobile marketing strategy.

Should an app be removed, it loses all of its rankings. After resubmitting and getting Apple approval, the app must then begin the process of indexing and building its ranking for keywords from the ground up, during which time its competitors can overtake it.

While developers have no control over what Apple finds compliant for subscription services on its platform, they control everything about their own apps. Proper App Store Optimization allows apps to grow and excel within the App Store while following all of Apple’s guidelines. This is the key to success within the App Store.

Want more information regarding App Store Optimization? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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