Two months ago we submitted Xero Touch, our iPhone app, to the App Store. After five weeks we got the disappointing response that the app was rejected.
Pay to play
Like every other iPhone app, we provided a way for people to signup from the app itself. However, Apple insisted we must use Apple’s in-app payments if we wanted people to signup from the app. Funny thing is, that’s not possible – their in-app payments can’t handle a subscription service like ours with upgrades, downgrades and volume discounts.
Beyond the billing mechanics, the pricing model for subscription software – 30% of lifetime revenue – is not an option. We can accept paying a one-off bounty for each signup, because that’s the value the app store delivers.
No sampling the merchandise
And anyway, our signup is free. People don’t have to pay to use a trial of Xero. Hence, Apple’s other policy – no trial versions. Apple says “Your website is the best place to provide demos, trial versions, ….” Except Apple then bans developers from that too “It’s not appropriate to include the link of your web service and references of the link in your app or your marketing text.”
After weeks of waiting and cryptic emails from Apple, we ended up on the phone with our judge & jury: a guy called Steve from Cupertino (alas, not the Steve). In a two minute phone call the ambiguities of written policies was cleared. If we removed the ability to signup from within the app we would get official approval, which we did and you can now get the Xero app here.
Straight to the top
It’s great to finally have our app in the App Store. Almost immediately we were featured at the top of the ranks. It’s been very popular. Which makes it really frustrating that people who discover the app can’t just try it out immediately. And it’s beyond frustrating that we’re forbidden from telling people how they can get a free login so they can try it out.
It’s unclear whether Apple is reviewing and rejecting all existing apps that have in-app signups and demos. There’s more than a few that we know about – Quickbooks Mobile is a perfect example – that don’t comply with this policy.
It’s worth noting the Quickbooks app released an approved update the same week our app was rejected.
We’d love to hear from other people who’ve had to deal with this or similar issues. Is there a loophole or a workaround that we haven’t discovered?