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The Cleansing Wave of Apple – Reducing Spam & Reskins. What you Need to Know..

In the past few months a lot of people have been talking about new rejections from Apple.

Is this good or bad?

I vote, bring it on.

It’s a change for sure, but let me tell you why I think it’s a good thing. Now I may be a little biased because approaching 13 months being a full time software developer and marketer and I’d like to believe I can continue doing what I love.

I want to believe we put out great products and services because we get feedback from users and customers. If you are putting out something that is great, then there is less to worry about. Policy updates, algorithm changes, keyword rankings, ect…are less of a threat.

Building an audience by asking questions, doing what you say you will do and serving them well by over delivering is the best way to move away from the constant threat of rejections.

Plain and simple.

So with these new rejections…

I’ve heard of them removing apps from sale not because they aren’t iOS compliant for 64 bit, but even now because:

“Upon further review, we noticed your app is nearly identical to other apps you have submitted to the App Store with only minor differences. Submitting apps with common or identical feature sets is considered a form of spam and violates App Store Guideline 4.3. As a result, your app has been removed from the App Store.”

So it doesn’t matter if you are submitting a new app, updating an old one or haven’t touched it in years, they can obviously still intervene and get in the way of your plans. It can be a devastating blow for sure, but if we want to publish apps in the Apple store, we must adapt and pivot to something that they do accept.

It’s part of the game. It’s always been part of the game. Here are a few I remember…

  • back when you couldn’t get flappy bird reskins accepted?
  • Rejections for too many ads, so we had to turn them off for review
  • The whole advertising identifier thing..
  • Fart and sex position apps no longer being allowed
  • Lite and Paid versions
  • More strict keyword monitoring
  • 64 bit required for all apps
  • can’t use more apps promotion on Chartboost
  • saying your app content should be a book, not an app
  • many more

What do all these have in common?

If you are reading this, then you probably did the same thing everyone else did that wanted to keep publishing apps.

You adapted.

This may sound like a pep talk, and maybe it is. Just because Apple says your new app is very similar to another one you have, doesn’t mean you can’t get it approved.

You just have to take a look at a few things.

1.) Is your theme, title, keywords getting flagged because there is already thousands of what you are trying to publish?

For example, someone reached out and said their new slots game was rejected for spam (not because they had more than one casino game).

I replied, “…Apple may be cracking down on spam in the way an app is presented. So for example, if you do “Egypt Pharaoh Slots” they may call that spam just because there are so many versions out there. I really do believe this is a thinning process and those that fight or make their apps unique will get in and after they clean up the store it will be open again.

It’s kind of back like when flappy bird was big and 1000’s of copies flooded the store and they eventually started to shut them off.

I don’t believe it’s the template because we don’t sell that many copies. Other casino templates have actually been sold thousands of times.”

2.) Have you thought of adding new features? When I started making apps in 2012, everything was custom. I didn’t know about templates. I had to go out, hire a programmer, go back and forth for weeks if not months trying to explain small changes. I had to deal with different time zones, language barriers..ect, just to get a simple app made.

When reskining started to evolve I think we all got a little complacent on the process. Instead of using a template for what it was. A template. Something to start with and adding to it..we started doing less and less to differentiate our new app from the actual template. First it was required to change everything and add your own features. Then it was you can use the menu buttons. Then it was, you can use the menu buttons and sounds. Eventually it came down to people (us included when we bought other templates) only changing the graphics.

Even further down the line, either from lack of knowledge or carelessness, people were not even changing the graphics. They were publishing apps with the exact same assets as the master template and just changing the name. Farther yet… I started to see people not even changing that. They altered one word and that was it.

Lastly, I saw people relisting templates they either bought or illegally acquired as their own and sold copies of those.

So you see, Apple is not doing this to be difficult, they are doing this because the system was abused.

They must try and clean the store of all these unfortunate apps and start over, so the best way to do that, would be to flag new apps that are already part of the problem, old ones trying to update and old ones sitting idle in the store.

Once this happens, the store will be cleaner and there will be a new thing that will eventually get abused and they will find a way to clean the store again.

It’s a cycle and I’m honestly surprised the first thing they haven’t done is change the terms of the developer agreement. Either you pay a certain amount per app or they have tiers like other services where you have a cap of apps you can publish.

The only people this would hurt would be those spamming the store.

For example, a lot of the top grossing and ranking major app companies have multiple apps, but not hundreds, not thousands. Usually it’s under 20.

That’s because it’s more profitable to build up 10-20 apps with massive back-ends and users than it is to have 10,000 apps across hundreds of developer accounts. It would be a nightmare to manage.

I’ve met people that had automated app builders, script, systems, huge teams..etc with thousands of low level reskins. This was years ago, but there was a model that worked and they scaled up to make this a business. It was short lived and usually something that is exploited… will be.
So an Apple account with an app limit per company of 20 would suite the majority. It would make us take more pride in our apps and honestly make discovery a whole hell of a lot easier.

You might be thinking…

“Ok, cool…but don’t you sell app templates and services build around the very thing you are shooting down?”

Yes and no. Yes I sell app templates and services with the idea that we license a product for a fraction of the cost it took to develop so you can make it your own.

The casino game I bought, and later turned into Mega Jackpot Slots cost the original owner over 25k to develop. I bought it for less than that and then reskinned it to fit our needs for another 1k.  So others wanted to make a casino game as awesome as that, I would have been it over 26k (not counting artwork). Instead (depending on the version) they could license it for $500-800.

So no. I have never been someone to have 1000’s of reskins based off templates.

Across all the app templates I’ve bought and licensed, I usually had at most, 4-5 variations. Right now for our main slots template, I have one. Just one. And I had that one app approaching 5k a month in rev when I switched my focus over to emojis.

One of my most popular emoji apps brought in over 10k in 30 days. We hit our first 1k net revenue in 1 day as well.

The only reason these numbers couldn’t be higher at the time is because we reached our ad spend and marketing budget. We only had so much to allocate to that. It was a bottle neck at the time, but my point is you don’t need hundreds of apps to generate reasonable income for a small team. You just need well thought out apps that can connect with your intended user base.

Maybe I’ll have a few photo apps, a few emoji apps and a few casino games. I build those up with users that are real and want to be using what we have. I reach out and get feedback and add things they want. That can be scaled, especially with paid acquisition. If it’s solid, you can scale.

You can then take that user base and see if there is something else you could build or promote. You already have proven interest in the niche. Maybe it’s another app. Maybe it’s a physical product. Maybe it’s a program to help them do X. What ever it is, you have a foundation to build off of when you push great products.

If you have a pile of reskinned apps that people only use for 1 minute, accidently click on an ad and leave, then that my friend is a house of cards.

These days we are planning a higher quality apps.

Unless you have a huge team and unlimited funds, then using an app template gets my vote every time.

You can take that template (which gets you 95%) there, and then add 5% cool unique features X,Y, Z and have something great.

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