Bad Design Is One Of The Top 10 Reasons Apple Rejects Apps

While Apple reveals the most common mistakes developers make, a whole 42% of app store rejections are still unexplained.

To millions of developers, Apple's App Store review team can seem like an inscrutable shadow watch, where apps are rejected for the most arbitrary reasons. Apple, of course, usually cultivates such airs of mystery, but in a semi-rare bout of (partial) transparency, the iPhone maker has built a rainbow-hued chart, updated weekly, showing the top 10 reasons why apps have been rejected. And as it turns out, a sizable chunk of apps are rejected simply because they are poorly designed.

While 14% of apps are rejected for not providing all the necessary information Apple requires, and another 8% are rejected for being buggy, 6% of apps are rejected simply for violating Apple developer guideline 10.6 which is basically Apple's "dont submit shit" policy":

Apple and our customers place a high value on simple, refined, creative, well thought through interfaces. They take more work but are worth it. Apple sets a high bar. If your user interface is complex or less than very good, it may be rejected.

Given some of the totally rubbish apps that have passed the monocle-wearing scrutiny of Apple's crackerjack team of design arbiters, I guess it's comforting to hear that Apple rejects any apps for bad design, let alone 14%. You wouldn't think it, looking at some of the more sketchy recesses of the App Store.

Apps are also commonly rejected for being fraudulent in some way — for example, for using another app's icon, or being uploaded with a misleading description.

But don't mistake this for total transparency. Although Apple's chart is better than nothing, the company lumps a full 42% of all App Store rejections under the "Other" category. This category is made up of apps that have been rejected for reasons that, taken individually, account for less than 2% of all rejections.

This makes sense, since there are a lot of App Store guidelines, and worse, many of them are maddeningly vague. For example, one reason Apple says it can rejects an app is because it "crosses the line," and Apple thinks you will "know it when you cross it." There are a lot of arbitrary decisions that may potentially be hidden in this so-called transparency.

You can check Apple's full breakdown of App Store rejections here.

[Photo: Flickr user Beebe]

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  • Most top apps just funnel large sums of money into Apple's pockets. $6 billion will be made this year. Apps with lots of in-store purchases, which many of the top are just clones of each other is just one example of how "bad design" can be looked over.

    Kardashian game LinkedIN Farm Story / Farm ville / Farm Heroes / Family Farm / Tiny Farm

    The exception are a few physics games or mind teasers that really are gratifying like Monument Valley or the one or two tower defense / reverse tower (angry bird) games.

    Anyone who has a girlfriend can attest to how annoying it is being told to login to a game to complete an action like "feeding an animal." Yes - I'm going to drop whatever it is i'm doing and rush to spend 15 minutes on a game that will force me to login to facebook to play and potentially tell all my friends I like Battle Camp. Yes, that's a real Pokemon-clone game.

  • The subhead is incorrect. Every app that Apple rejects comes with an explanation. If you talked to a developer you'd know that.

    Moreover, it's not that 42% of rejects are unexplained, it's that 42% of rejects are because of things outside of the top 10 reasons that apps are rejected. There are many rules that are pretty well explained in the developer guidelines. If you read it, and follow the guidelines, your app won't get rejected.

    I know there were a lot of devs who complained early on in the App Store experience, but at this point, most of us know the rules and know how to work within them. I don't get why so many tech reporters want to report about how hard it is to get an app into the App Store. True, it's not Google Play, but ANYONE with a credit card can get an app into the Google Play store, so that's not a real comparison.

  • Dawson Whitfield

    Very insightful article John. Maybe Google will start rejecting apps that don't adhere to Material design :P

    For those looking some more insight into publishing in the iOS app store, might be worth chatting with Chris Gillis - he's brought apps from concept to submission (

  • mjankus

    If you want more transparency about apps rejected for reasons you think might be vague, perhaps you should do some journalism, contact some rejected developers and find out if they'll let you compare their work to the guidelines yourselves.

    Otherwise, it sounds to me as if you, and these rejected developers are hoping the teacher will do the homework for you.