Apple Revamps App Store Guidelines, Sets New Rules for Remote Mirroring Apps Like Steam Link

Alongside the debut of iOS 12, which is available to developers for beta testing as of today, Apple has introduced new App Store Guidelines.

There are several tweaks that have been made to the App Store Guidelines, and one notable change appears to have been introduced specifically because of the Steam Link debacle that saw Apple approve and then renege on the Steam Link app for iOS.

A new guideline, 4.2.7, says that all Remote Application Mirroring apps, such as Steam Link, must comply with a specific set of rules. Such apps are not allowed to offer a user interface that resembles an App Store view or a store-like interface, nor can they include the ability to purchase software not already owned by the user. Apple is allowing transactions to be made by remote mirroring apps, as long as purchases are made on the host device rather than the iOS device.
The UI appearing on the client does not resemble an iOS or App Store view, does not provide a store-like interface, or include the ability to browse, select, or purchase software not already owned or licensed by the user. For the sake of clarity, transactions taking place within mirrored software do not need to use in-app purchase, provided the transactions are processed on the host device.
With the clarification of Apple's stance on games streamed from a PC or Mac, the Steam Link app may be able to launch on iOS devices after all. Valve has not yet commented on the policy changes, and it's not clear what Valve will need to tweak to comply with the new rules.

There are multiple other changes to the App Store Guidelines. A modified 3.1.1 rule, for example, says that non-subscription apps may offer a free time-based trial period using a free in-app purchase option that temporarily unlocks app functionality. This will allow all apps in the App Store to offer free trials, rather than just subscription apps.

Apps that offer auto-renewing subscriptions, meanwhile, are prohibited from attempting to trick users into purchasing a subscription under false pretenses or engaging in bait-and-switch practices. Such apps will be removed from the App Store.

Apps are no longer allowed to encourage users to disable Wi-Fi, turn off certain security features, and make other modifications to system settings that are unrelated to the core functionality of an app.

All apps (including third-party ads) are now forbidden from running unrelated background processes like cryptocurrency mining.

A new rule, 2.3.12, states that all apps are required to "clearly describe" new features and product changes in their "What's New" text. Apps can continue to use generic descriptions for bug fixes, security updates, and performance improvements, but anything more significant must be listed in the notes.

Apps are also now required to obtain explicit user consent and provide a clear visual indication when recording or making a record of user activity, and there's a new rule that says apps can use Unicode characters that render as Apple emojis within apps and app metadata, a change from earlier this year when some apps were rejected for using emojis in their App Store descriptions. Emojis can't be embedded directly into an app binary, however.

There are many other smaller guideline changes concerning content ratings, iCloud documents, data security, cryptocurrency, and more, with the full list of App Store Guidelines available on Apple's website.

Related Roundup: iOS 12


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19 weeks ago
This I really like. All of it sounds like changes for the better and I really like the one about including actual changes being listed for app updates. I read all of this nearly every time I update every app I have and I can’t stand it when I run into the apps that have the same generic descriptions every time or a bunch of mumbo jumbo that doesn’t apply to the update.
Rating: 8 Votes
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19 weeks ago
--->>> THIS ISSUE IS AN EXTREMELY BIG DEAL ! <<<---

RE: "A modified 3.1.1 rule, for example, says that non-subscription apps may offer a free time-based trial period using a free in-app purchase option that temporarily unlocks app functionality. This will allow all apps in the App Store to offer free trials, rather than just subscription apps."

First, thanks for catching that ! ... I missed it when I Reviewed the updated Guidelines earlier.

Second, this is the SINGLE BIGGEST issue to come out of the WWDC ! ... the significance of this should NOT be under-estimated by anyone ! ... it is HUGE !!!
Rating: 8 Votes
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19 weeks ago

A new rule, 2.3.12, states that all apps are required to "clearly describe" new features and product changes in their "What's New" text.

I hope they enforce this - I'm pretty sick and tired of the boilerplate "because we do 2-week sprints in our agile development process, and thus release updates every two weeks, we somehow feel justified in merely pointing out that we release often, and don't feel the need to actually tell you what changed." It's like a non-sequitur. And it's annoying. Just give us a few hints about what changed.
Rating: 5 Votes
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19 weeks ago

I hope they enforce this - I'm pretty sick and tired of the boilerplate "because we do 2-week sprints in our agile development process, and thus release updates every two weeks, we somehow feel justified in merely pointing out that we release often, and don't feel the need to actually tell you what changed." It's like a non-sequitur. And it's annoying. Just give us a few hints about what changed.

Couldn’t agree more. The update notes is also not a place for developers to to post their stupid poems and jokes. Just tell me in a simple dot point form what’s changed.
Rating: 3 Votes
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19 weeks ago
Am I the only one that thinks the 4.2.7 guideline kinda contradicts itself or am I not interpreting it right? According to d) You can't have a Store like GUI but transactions within a mirrored software are OK as long as they are processed on the host PC? How can you have a transaction without a GUI to transact it?

Also does b) mean that Steam Link can't use mFI controller functionality (is the controller input an API?) Strictly speaking iIts not functionality that is needed to stream the remote desktop (interact with, yes... though you could use on screen controls).

All in all though I hope this means Steam Link will come to iOS. Though Valve supposedly disabled the store for the iOS steam link app so Im not sure which of these guidelines they ran afoul of initially.
Rating: 2 Votes
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19 weeks ago

I'm curious what kind of app would encourage users to disable Wi-Fi.

Carriers apps which use your cellular connection to identify you so you don’t have to login.
Rating: 2 Votes
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19 weeks ago

Am I being thick, or does this not increase clarity at all? The first half seems to say no store (in the UI appearing on the client, which is where it appears when it's mirrored), then second half seems to say it's OK if it's processed on the host. We're talking about a mirrored UI, meaning it's processed on the host but displayed on the client. So is it OK or isn't it?

My interpretation is that the first sentence pertains to the client/iOS app itself, while the second sentence pertains only to the host machine. By "UI appearing on the client", I think that means that the iOS app itself cannot have a way to directly purchase or select already-purchased software. So an iOS app can't load a table of Steam games for instance. This would exclude using both iOS's native table and web views for displaying Steam games as both UI elements are generated on the client side. From the second sentence, I think that this means you can access a Steam game if the Steam app itself or a browser are what's being mirrored as that UI is generated on the host side. Yes, perhaps technically this is "UI appearing on the client", but it's not UI generated by the client--from the client's perspective, it's just content being mirrored.
Rating: 1 Votes
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19 weeks ago
Phil Schiller running the app stores has been so good, although the changes have come slowly.
Rating: 1 Votes
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19 weeks ago
I'm curious what kind of app would encourage users to disable Wi-Fi.
Rating: 1 Votes
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19 weeks ago

Aren't these new rules though? Whatever others were complaining about has nothing to do with the new rules. So what other reaction would one have besides being happy the app store has new guidelines that should be amenable to all? This is a win/win.


They made some pretty serious accusations about why Apple blocked the app in the first place, and it turns out they were.... I’ll be generous... misinformed.
Rating: 1 Votes
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