Will Apple reject your app if it’s not unique? 

If you’re building an app, you may be wondering whether it’ll be unique enough to make it through Apple review process. This is an especially common question among people who have never submitted an app to the App Store before. And it’s no wonder – the stories about apps being rejected are circulated much more widely and loudly than the relatively boring, common stories of apps being accepted.

So, will Apple reject your app if it’s not unique?

The short answer is no, probably not. As long as your app conforms to Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines and doesn’t crash horribly, you have nothing to worry about.

Perhaps one of the bullets in the Introduction is troubling if you’ve never submitted an app before:

If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.

I know when that when I submitted my first app, I was afraid of getting rejected for this very reason. I know I’m no designer, and I struggle to make things look nice when I’m responsible for the design. I mean, just look at it:

iFonts screen shot

It’s not pretty at all, it doesn’t do a lot, it’s not unique, and you might think it was cobbled together in a few days. In reality, I only spent about a week building version 1.0 before submitting it to Apple. And despite its relative lack of polish and pizzazz, they accepted it.

For another illustration, here’s the most recent app I built to sell on the App Store:

Zero Inbox screen shot

With this one, I took Sacha Grief’s advice about getting a side project from idea to launch in 10 hours. It’s just one screen, and when you tap that mail button, it brings up the built-in email composer. And that’s all. I spent less than 10 hours on it. Remember what Apple said about that?

If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days…please brace yourself for rejection.

I was prepared for rejection on this one, since it was put together in less than a few days – but I didn’t really expect it. I knew it was an app that would be useful to people, and that it was a quality app. And I think that’s more important to Apple than whether you actually spent only a few days on it. They want quality on the App Store, and honestly, I’d argue that they still let some pretty low quality apps onto the App Store. Look at all the awful clones of popular apps like Flappy Bird and Threes.

And that brings us to the question of uniqueness. Should you worry about your non-unique app being rejected? Look at all the Flappy Bird clones, the Threes clones, the Kim Kardashian apps, the hundreds of todo apps… If Apple approved all of those, why would they reject yours for not being unique?

You have nothing to worry about. Read through the App Store Review Guidelines, follow them, and build something useful. And chances are, your app will be approved.

Update: Check out Apple’s Common App Rejections for the most common reasons apps are rejected.

If you’re ready to get your first app into the App Store, enter your name and email below to grab my advice, tips, and tutorials on building iOS apps, and I’ll help you get there. And if you’re still worried about whether your app will be rejected, shoot me an email and I’ll let you know what I think.