Your Event App May Become Harder to Find

Author: Dave Lutz, CMP       

The Apple store recently updated its App Store Review Guidelines and rule 4.2.6 — “Apps created from a commercial template or app generation service will be rejected” — has created some concern and confusion among event organizers. How does the update affect mobile event apps?

Your branded event app may not be permitted in the App Store — and understanding which apps could be excluded and why is not always easy. Plus, interpretations vary among event-app providers. If your event app provider utilizes a template to generate one-off event apps (also called white label) and did not architect the solution you contracted for to be multi-tenant, your app does have a decent chance of being rejected by the Apple Review Board. CadmiumCD CEO Michelle Wyatt describes white labeling as taking the same template and putting a skin over it to brand it for that client — “using the same engine and just rebranding it for that specific event with new content for it,” she told Convene in a recent interview. “By using the same engine, it’s not going to be approved by Apple.”

In that case, your attendees will first have to download the master or container app in the App store, and then select or navigate to your event. The negatives to this are additional steps for the user and no presence for your event in the App Store. Your event may also be listed along with other upcoming events, even possibly a competitor’s.

In my opinion, this is nothing to lose sleep over nor cause for switching vendors. It depends on what’s important to your organization. Core-Apps CEO Jay Tokosch, who also spoke with a Convene editor, said that if it’s not a big deal for you to have attendees go through these extra steps to find your app, then go with a white-label app. “But if it is important for you to not have your attendees go through this painstaking exercise,” he said, “you should use a premium-type app.”

If you are one of the few who contracted for a custom app to be developed for your event, you should have no issues. Tokosch agrees: Premium-type apps will be allowed in the Apple store.

Why did this happen?

It’s Apple’s attempt to battle spam, and it doesn’t just affect the events industry. “I guess what’s happening in the Apple store is a lot of people are taking someone’s idea, especially if it’s a popular app, and creating multiple versions of it,” Wyatt told Convene.

When will this happen?

My sources tell me that Apple is beginning to crack down on this now. They are, however, giving reputable developers a four- to six-month grace period. This means that most 2017 events will probably not be impacted.

What actions should you take?

The event mobile app space is still in the Wild West stage. They’re becoming more feature-rich and prices are being pushed down. It may be wise to not sign multi-year agreements until the market is more mature.

Be leery of vendors who use this announcement to scare you into making a switch. Set up a call with your current mobile app provider and ask how this may impact your app. Loop in your organization’s IT department. Be sure to understand whether your app is architected as a multi-tenant or templated solution. Ask them for a demo of how your attendees will access your app should a branded solution not be approved for the App Store. Ask for proof of approvals from Apple over the past few weeks.

What about exceptions?

It’s too early to predict if the Apple Review Board will make exceptions for more feature-rich, configurable event apps. No question, event apps that are simply replacements for printed agendas with itinerary-building tools should not have a presence in the App Store. In my opinion, apps for larger events — with high potential for downloads, that are content-rich and include social tools — should be permitted. Many of these are used for connecting attendees, accessing PowerPoints, handouts, or research abstracts. Some even include journaling, rich exhibitor profiles and have a useable shelf-life well after the event concludes.

For an unbiased view of this issue, read this TechCrunch article.

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.

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Editor’s Note: This column has been updated since it was originally published to better reflect that quotes from both CadmiumCD CEO Michelle Wyatt and Core-Apps CEO Jay Tokosch were from interviews with a Convene editor and were not comments made to columnist Dave Lutz. The following quote from Tokosch, which was part of his original interview but not included in the original column, has been added to better clarify his position: “But if it is important for you to not have your attendees go through this painstaking exercise,” he said, “you should use a premium-type app.”

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