There are two dominant app stores globally: the Apple Store and Google Play Store. Both Apple and Google remain two of the most valuable and influential tech companies in the world, but they also made some significant changes in 2021.
Here are some notable app guidelines to consider in 2022 and beyond. First, let’s look at the new Apple Store guidelines for 2021.
Apple App Store Guidelines In 2021
App Tracking Transparency
In April 2021, Apple released iOs 14.5, and it came with a new tool called App Tracking Transparency. The goal is for Apple users to take more control over their privacy since apps in the Apple Store now have to ask users for permission to track them.
The App Tracking Transparency (ATT) dealt a huge blow to Facebook and other advertisers since they relied on IDFA, or “identifier for advertisers,” which allowed apps to track users across various websites and apps. The new feature reportedly cost social media platforms almost $10 billion in revenue.
Cracking Down On “Hookup” Apps
In June 2021, the tech giant took aim at “hookup apps” that might feature pornography or promote prostitution. While there was some concern at the time that this would affect casual dating apps, Apple made it clear this would not be the case.
Apple has clarified that this will not affect legitimate dating platforms, but instead affect apps used as “a cover” for illegal activities. These illegal activities might include prostitution, pornography, human trafficking, and more. Apple claims that they were cracking down thanks to new emerging “scam app developments.”
Loosened Restrictions On Cannabis
In 2021, Apple also decided to change its stance regarding cannabis-related companies. The company removed the ban, but a marijuana delivery app must be geo-restricted to jurisdictions where marijuana is legal.
Apple added that apps that provide services in highly-regulated fields should be submitted by a “legal entity” rather than app developers. Some experts believe that Apple loosened the restrictions because marijuana may soon be federally legal in the United States.
Apple has been experimenting with the idea of “tipping” app developers for some time now. It seems like the tech company is embracing the idea finally, giving users the option to tip developers and other digital content creators within Apple apps.
Mandatory Account Deletion Option
Apple is serious about giving users more privacy and control over their data, and that trend has continued with a recent announcement. Now, any app that allows an account to be created must also offer an in-app account deletion option.
The requirement for these apps applies to all app submissions beginning January 31, 2022. Apple is likely making these changes to anticipate a global push for more privacy regulation, and a marketing move to differentiate Apple from the competition.
Apple also rolled out the StoreKit2 in 2021, introducing Swift-based APIs to make both app subscriptions and in-app purchases much more seamless and simplified. It was also created to improve customer support since users can manage their subscriptions within the app itself. This marks the first major revision to StoreKit in over a decade.
The StoreKit2 also features additional APIs to get more information about in-app purchase history, offer eligibility, subscription statuses, and more. The StoreKit2 simplifies purchasing and makes in-app purchases more secure through cryptography and Touch ID/Face ID integrations.
Apple ID Mandatory Sign-In
Apple has been focused on privacy for years, which is why they introduced the Apple ID mandatory sign-in back in 2019. The goal was to provide a privacy-focused authentication process that was also simple and convenient to the user. This feature was rolled out in Apple’s iOS 13.
Any app that allowed for third-party authentication during this time (through Facebook or Google, for example) had to add a compulsory “Sign In With Apple” option. The “Sign In With Apple” feature also allowed users to mask their e-mail address with an anonymized e-mail address for enhanced privacy and convenience.
Google Play Store 2021 Guidelines
Of course, the Apple Store is not the only app store boasting millions of users. Here are some of the recent Google Play Store app guidelines that have been introduced over the past several years.
Version compliance mandates targeting API level 30
In 2021, Google made an announcement regarding new apps. New apps have to target API level 30 or above as of November 2021. The goal is also to encourage developers to take advantage of new features offered by Android 11.
Google says that the goal is to improve the user experience while also preventing apps from utilizing outdated technologies that may have software vulnerabilities.
New app set ID to link apps on a device
Many developers launch multiple apps but haven’t been able to truly understand or analyze user behavior on a single device. Privacy concerns have historically made the process difficult and complex.
Now, developers can benefit from a “new app set ID,” an ID that links multiple apps together. In other words, if a user downloads two of your apps – that user will share the same ID. This ID cannot be used for advertising purposes whatsoever.
Apps for children and families
Google has made it clear that they are making a push for more children-friendly and family-related content. The tech company first introduced its “Designed For Children” program in 2015, encouraging developers to create more family-friendly apps.
If you are an app developer that is targeting children specifically in your app, you will need to ensure that it meets “Designed For Children” standards.
All code, including that run at runtime, must meet guidelines
Google has always maintained that apps meet Google Play core app quality guidelines, but Google has been tightening up those guidelines as time passes. Now, all runtime code – even those of third-party services – must meet the new guidelines.
Updates to inappropriate content policies
Earlier this year, Google announced that “sugar dating” apps would not be allowed on the Google Play store. The goal is to crack down on any and all apps offering “compensated sexual relationships.”
Many believe that Google made this move due to FOSTA-SESTA legislation introduced in the United States in 2018.
Apps must use Billing Library 3
Now, there are new Google Play billing guidelines that must be met. These guidelines are outlined in Billing Library 3, with the goal of making in-app purchases easier for users. Starting August 2021, app developers have to use Google Play Billing Library version 3.