Every day Apple seems to get stricter with store assets. At least, that’s what we at AppAgent and other publishers have experienced. It’s increasingly common for app previews to be rejected because they “do not sufficiently reflect the app in use”. For an agency like us, with creativity in our mobile marketing DNA, this hurts. But Apple sets the rules, and we have to adjust.
Here’s a summary of what we’ve learned about app store preview videos. We hope it helps you to avoid getting into trouble.
We often use animation principles like enlarged elements or a simplified UI in our app previews because they guide users’ eyes easily. Apple used to approve landscape videos for portrait apps, but this now seems to be a problem.
The most frequent reason for rejection we’ve seen lately is that you’re not allowed to display any device in your landscape App Store video. It’s worth having a B-version ready in case of a rejection, as landscape videos have a more significant impact.
In our experience, Apple usually rejects app previews when:
1) The video includes device images and/or device frames.
2) The preview shows footage other than the app in use.
3) The video features a manipulated user interface.
4) An iPhone X video shows app footage from iPhone 6/7/8.
These are just some of the reasons. Apptamin pointed out some interesting findings in a recent post: “Some reviewers have even been as far as rejecting the video for displaying a slight drop shadow around the UI.”
To help illustrate our point, here’s a real-time example of the evolution of an app preview video for Kiwi.com. At AppAgent, we are responsible for Kiwi.com’s overall mobile growth, including designing all ASO materials and ad creatives.
In the second version, we changed the orientation from landscape to portrait. We also removed the initial visual trick with fake screenshots and suppressed the device frames in an attempt to see how far Apple would let us go.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t as far as we hoped.
The version that passed the review – finally – has been brutally simplified. From the users’ perspective, the message and the focus on functionality are the same as the examples featured above, but Apple cares more about specific details in the execution.
Another AppAgent example we can use to illustrate our point is Joom. Launched in 2016, Joom is a shopping app that has been downloaded over 130 million times. In this case, the app preview below was approved at first but was then rejected two months after it was published.
So, what did we do? We removed the video to push the update through and then added it back a few weeks later with the next release. At this point, it successfully passed the review process. However, the next update was rejected because Apple had concerns about the video. Currently, there is no preview in the App Store for Joom.
Free is a nasty word for Apple
Rodrigo Mello e Souza from Jogatina shared with me his experience of Apple deciding to reject an iPad app preview. In it, the preview featured a device frame as well as a device button which the iPad Pro 3rd Generation doesn’t have. This was enough to trigger a rejection.
Michal Skvor from Avast confirms such rejections don’t just happen to small developers. The AVG Secure VPN app has millions of downloads but it too found its preview rejected because of a similar issue.
Apple also rejected a preview for Jogatina because it used the word “Free” in the poster frame. If you’re developing creatives, it’s crucial to know that Apple won’t allow words that make price referrals. Keep this in mind when designing your app previews.
App Store screenshot rejections
With screenshots, you’re also at risk if you manipulate the app UI or don’t show the app itself.
Primož Strajnar from Tricky Tribe Ltd. received a rejection because Apple claimed he had manipulated screenshots. The review stated that the majority of screenshots did not sufficiently reflect the app in use. The important part of this feedback is the use of the term ‘the majority’. This indicates that using marketing visuals isn’t always a problem, but it’s crucial that the core experience is clearly demonstrated in most of the screens.
Nadir Garouche, Senior Growth Manager at NY-based Tilting Point, describes their most recent rejection for its game Warhammer: Chaos and Conquest: “We wanted to use the same screenshots that we had on Google Play where we use some artwork next to gameplay images. It’s quite preponderant, but we saw that the audience on Google Play liked it very much if we look at the CVR uplift it brought.”
Initially, Tilting Point found – to their surprise – that the submitted screenshots were approved, but the rejection came with another update. They received the following explanation which is similar to what Tricky Tribe saw: “The majority of the screenshots do not clearly and sufficiently display the game’s UI.” The final approved set is the original one showing more gameplay where the art on top of that didn’t occupy too much real estate.
Lockwood, an AppAgent client, recently experienced App store rejection too. Lisa Schaeffer, marketing manager for the game Avakin Life, is happy to share a part of Apple’s review: “App Store screenshots should accurately communicate your app’s value and functionality. Use text and overlay images to highlight your app’s user experience, not obscure it.” To gain approval, the team had to redesign all screenshots completely.
Test the line, but always back up
Kacper Chwaliński, ASO manager at Huuuge Games, told me in a conversation: “Plain screenshots [and app previews] are a 100% safe solution but probably aren’t the best choice from the business perspective.”
If you’ve read this far, it should be apparent what things to avoid when developing your previews. The truth is as marketers, we will always push boundaries to reach a better app store conversion rate. It’s what we do.
However, knowing there’s a real risk of rejection, you should always have a B plan in place to manage any unnecessary delays in releasing a new update. If you’re short on resources, have another concept ready and allocated design resources for the day following the expected review.
If you can afford the extra investment, then prepare a more conservative alternative set in advance. You might not need to use it, but if you do, it’ll be there ready and waiting. Having two creatives also enables you to run an A/B test. You might be surprised to find that less polished and tweaked visuals convert better.
Ultimately, it’s not awards but the highest conversion rate that we strive for, right?
I would like to thank all contributors who shared their stories with me, namely Lisa Schaeffer (Lockwood), Jan Pollack (Wooga), Kacper Chwaliński (Huuuge Games), Nadir Garouche (Tilting Point), Primož Strajnar (Tricky Tribe), Michal Skvor (Avast), Rodrigo Mello e Souza (Jogatina) and Jiri Chochlik with David Pertl (both AppAgent).
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