Guest Post: Apple enforces its new app promotion restrictions, removes AppGratis from the App Store

Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, Apple booted out app discovery service AppGratis, which promotes paid apps by offering one for free everyday, from the Apple App Store for violating clause 2.25 of Apple’s App Review Guidelines, which states that “Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected.” The app also violated clause 5.6, which states that “Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind.” VentureBeat reported that Apple reached out to AppGratis last Friday, informing the company that it was welcome to change its app and resubmit it. AppGratis CEO Simon Dawlat said in a company blog post that there were no discussions between Apple and AppGratis in advance of the Cupertino, Calif.-headquartered corporation removing the app. Dawlat (who also explained the full story of how AppGratis got pulled) said he did eventually speak with an Apple employee over the phone and does want to speak further with Apple.

With all that said, in today’s guest post from Noya Polliack, marketing director at Side-Kick Games, a developer of family and mid-core games, says that despite discoverability being a huge issue for app developers in the crowded mobile app market, AppGratis is the latest example of Apple being keen on clamping down on any apps that violate its policies.

Six months after adding clause 2.25 to Apple’s App Review Guidelines, AppGratis finds itself outside of the best store in town – Apple’s App Store.

AppGratis is the second app banned from the App Store due to the new guidelines which restrict apps from providing pure app promotion services. These Apps usually function as app recommendation services and/or alert users when discounts are available. Among this type of apps are FreeAppADay, Appoday, Daily App Dream, Appsfire and more. Earlier in December, the popular AppShopper app was removed from the Apple App Store.

Both AppGratis and AppShopper offered developers burst campaigns — massive traffic in a short period of time. The result of these campaigns is usually high ranking in the Apple App Store for a few days. This method of app promotion is used by many developers in order to overcome the number one problem in the crowded app market today — discoverability.

At the moment there are still plenty of other discovery apps, which offer third-party promotions. While Apple’s next move is unknown, it’s definitely an issue that app developers should address.

Is Apple acting in the users’ best interest?

One of the reasons the new clause was added is that by attracting millions of users, third-party aggregators like AppGratis allow a way for developers to spend their way to the top 25, violating the Apple App Store’s purity. However, big game development studios that can afford to create a marketing buzz before they launch their app can be accused of doing just the same. While these well known studios get the media’s attention and use their apps portfolio to cross promote their new app, indie developers with a low marketing budget and a single app stay behind. Sadly, the outcome is that many new great apps are not visible to iOS users.

It’s also important to remember that burst campaigns can be executed using different user acquisition tactics such as web-based affiliate networks, ad networks and user acquisition networks. Since all of these sources use in-app ads to promote other apps, we can expect to see the mobile ads market growing faster than expected.

As Apple’s ranking algorithm remains a mystery, it’s known that the number of downloads plays a key factor in Apple’s app store ranking. Since app installs can be acquired one way or another, it only seems fair that users’ experience and rating will have a much stronger influence on apps’ ranking.

Looking at Apple’s latest moves — adding clause 2.25, clamping down on incentivized apps downloads, changing the Apple App Store’s look and the unknown magic formula of how to get featured — it’s clear that Apple is keen to stay “hands on” picking the “right” apps for its users.