Earlier this week Apple adjusted some of its App Store Guidelines. There have been some changes surrounding prompting for App Store reviews, Sign-in With Apple, building against the iOS 13 SDK, Push Notifications, and certain app categories. The latter two are the ones I want to focus on.
One area where users often complain is in regards to the push notifications that they receive from apps. While you can control whether or not you receive push notifications from an app, it is often not possible to specify the type of notifications that you receive.
The ability for some apps to be able to advertise to their users is paramount. Often this is done via in-app ads. However, other times this is done via push notifications. This can not only detract from a user’s overall experience, it goes against Apple’s App Store guidelines. The guidelines have now been modified
Push Notifications should not be used for promotions or direct marketing purposes unless customers have explicitly opted in to receive them via consent language displayed in your app’s UI, and you provide a method in your app for a user to opt out from receiving such messages.
This is a welcome change for both users and app developers. App developers will be able to advertise to users who actually choose to hear about new products and possible services. If you have an app that users enjoy and you have a new offering they will likely be more receptive to the new product.
My concern about this rule is that it will not be enforced as strictly that it should be. It is my opinion that Apple should give an app maybe two or three chances before pulling the app from the store. Repeatedly violating this app should result in a permanent ban of the app, if not the developer account. This would show app developers that Apple is serious about enforcing the rule.
There is another change that I think might have another angle that most would expect.
Section 4.3 of the App Store Guidelines states:
Also avoid piling on to a category that is already saturated; the App Store has enough fart, burp, flashlight, fortune telling, dating, and Kama Sutra apps, etc. already. We will reject these apps unless they provide a unique, high-quality experience. Spamming the store may lead to your removal from the Developer Program.
The first few apps: fart, burp, flashlight, and fortune telling apps are very simple and easy to make and really do not provide much value. Dating apps on the other hand can provide new and innovative experiences. However, many of them are just simply slightly tweaked takes on the “swipe left or right”.
I think there is another aspect to dating apps that most might not think about. For dating apps you provide a significant amount of information like location, photos, interests and the like. This information, when linked to email address, can easily identify someone and this information can be provided to third-parties which then can be used to target you. Additionally, if the information gets into the hands of a nefarious entity, the information could be used against you.
I think this is why there is the line “unless they provide a unique, high-quality experience”. I interpret this to mean that if a company like Twitter or Facebook were to want to release a dating app, it would likely be approved, but if a company called “ACME Dating app” were to try and release a dating app, it likely would be rejected.
The guidelines that govern the App Store are adjusted from time to time to reflect changes in society and trends in the App Store. The adjustments that Apple has made are changes that could improve the experience for everyone, provided that they enforce the changes like advertising within Push Notifications. Ultimately, only time will tell if the changes will ultimately help or hinder the experience of users.