Developers adapt to Apple’s crackdown on app discovery services

Ever since Apple instituted clause 2.25 in October 2012 to its App Review Guidelines, the Cupertino, Calif.-based corporation has been cracking down on app discovery services violating the clause like AppGratis, which was removed from the Apple App Store in an effort to stop third-party tools that directly compete with the store. Clause 2.25 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.” Another relevant clause is 5.6, which states that “Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind.”

Inside Mobile Apps first heard of AppGratis when we spoke with CEO Simon Dawlat back in January about the company’s raising of $13.5 million in Series A funding and that its service was delivering up to 700,000 installs for app developers. Essentially, AppGratis offered developers burst campaigns by getting their app featured by AppGratis for a certain amount of money. Now that the app is removed from the Apple App Store, for those who still have the app installed on their devices, the app just prompts users that daily deals will be delivered to their email instead of through the app via push notifications. App discovery remains one of the largest hurdles for app developers, so when engines like AppGratis get taken down, developers need to start looking at other avenues for discovery. In a guest post from Side-Kick Games marketing director Noya Polliack, she adds that it’s clear Apple wants to remain “hands on” with picking the “right” apps for its users.

This wasn’t the first time Apple cracked down on limiting outside influencers from its app ecosystem. Apple shook down incentivized install practices back in April 2011, where developers offer their apps in other games and pay for downloads when users install their titles for virtual current. reported earlier this month that Apple apparently expanded the language in clause 2.25. was sent an email conversation between Apple and an anonymous developer who’s developing an app “primarily focused on sharing recommendations to your friends.” In the email from Apple to the developer, Apple pointed to apps that “include filtering, bookmarking, searching, or sharing recommendations are not considered as significantly different from the App Store.” The additional language to clause 2.25 is not present in Apple’s guidelines. This expansion to the regulation 2.25 has left iOS developers confused about what is and what isn’t acceptable in terms of app promotion.

To confirm’s claim, an anonymous source told Inside Mobile Apps that many developers have been receiving this new rejection notice for their apps.

AppShopper, which was removed back December 2012, recently returned to the Apple App Store after the developers altered the app’s approach to app discovery. Instead of directly competing with the Apple App Store, AppShopper (which is now titled AppShopper Social) focuses on social discovery though a core Wish List functionality, which allows users to add apps to the list and be notified when there’s price changes or updates. Now, users can share their app interests with their friends, while also seeing what apps their friends are liking.

Despite Apple pulling AppGratis from the App Store, a new app discovery app called AppCurious was recently approved and launched in the store. AppCurious is a social network for app discovery, where users can see personal recommendations from family and friends (even celebrities), taking a similar approach to AppShopper’s relaunched app. What makes AppCurious different from AppGratis is that it does’t allow developers to pay for moving up the Apple App Store charts after an app is featured in AppGratis, generating hundreds of thousands, and in some cases, millions of downloads. AppCurious instead allows users to follow other people to see what new apps others have installed or shared. Users can sign up to use the app with their Facebook credentials, Twitter handle, or email address, allowing users to find their friends and family they trust to make recommendation for something like a mobile app. Since users can comment on apps, developers can even sign up to be notified about a comment and respond. Both AppShopper and AppCurious’ existence in the app store disproves the added language to clause 2.25 from the anonymous developer’s email it received from Apple.

At Google I/O last week, head of search and discovery for Google Play Ankit Jain revealed how developers can get their apps discovered through search and other methods. He said a featuring (Editors’ Choice, top charts, etc.) in the an app store — as most developers agree works for discovery at least for a short amount of time — is a major source of app discovery, leading to a major amount of installs. Jain also said that 12 percent of daily active users (DAU) search for apps daily and 50 percent of DAU search for apps weekly. With so many users searching for apps, it becomes increasingly important for developers to optimize their app’s landing page in Google Play, while also making sure that their app has a lot of positive reviews and ratings. These same recommendations for app discovery in Google Play translate seamlessly to the Apple App Store.

“For the average app, search actually makes up the vast majority of installs,” he added.

For developers interested in learning more about the problems and solutions surrounding mobile app discovery, join us for our panel discussing any and all things mobile app discovery at our Inside Social Apps conference on June 6 and 7. Get your tickets now!