Apple to allow SMBs and nonprofits to build iOS apps from templates

The Cupertino giant had previously limited the publishing of apps created with a template or app generation service.

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Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:

  • Apple will now allow nonprofits, SMBs, and other organizations to build apps with a template or through an app creation service, which was previously limited.
  • One caveat is that the app must be published by the organization itself, not by the template provider or app creator.

Apple has updated its App Store guidelines, now allowing SMBs, nonprofits, and other organizations to use templating services and custom app builders to create and publish iOS apps. In a controversial move, Apple had previously banned the use of such services.

By allowing the use of these tools, Apple is providing more opportunities for smaller companies, groups, and other organizations that may not have the resources for custom app development to maintain a presence on iOS. Such services simplify the process for these organizations, making it faster and easier for them to get into the Apple App Store.

Apple originally banned the use of templates and app-creation services in an effort to cut down on copycat apps and spam apps. But there was an adverse effect on legitimate apps, as the initial guideline changes wiped out many small business apps as well.

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Now, it's OK for companies to use templates again, but there is one big caveat: The business itself (or whoever owns the app's content) must be the one that publishes the app to the store, the guidelines noted. That means a template service or app creation platform cannot publish the app on behalf of the organization.

If the app isn't submitted by the content provider, it will be rejected, per the guidelines. Apple also noted that the app creation services "should offer tools that let their clients create customized, innovative apps that provide unique customer experiences."

Additionally, the revised guidelines state that another option for these app template providers would be "to create a single binary to host all client content in an aggregated or 'picker' model, for example as a restaurant finder app with separate customized entries or pages for each client restaurant, or as an event app with separate entries for each client event."

While some could argue that the original guidelines were Apple's way of maintaining a good user experience for its customers, the use of app templates likely goes unnoticed by many users.

Opponents to the original guidelines included California Congressman Ted W. Lieu, who penned a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook who said that, in its effort to weed out the bad actors, Apple was "casting too wide a net and invalidating apps from longstanding and legitimate developers who pose no threat to the App Store's integrity."

As the guidelines are now updated, it seems that Apple is stepping back a little bit from its hard stance against templates, which could allow smaller organizations to more easily capitalize on mobile through the App Store.

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Image: CNET