Event App Due Diligence

Editor’s Note: This article was originally penned for PCMA’s Convene in the beginning of August, early on in the discovery that the Apple App Store’s change in guidelines could affect branded mobile event apps. Much has been written since, including evidence that Apple is taking action with some event app providers. From our view, our opinions haven’t changed. Have discussions directly with your provider and request recent proof of Apple Review Board app approval from them. Also, any event app provider claiming that Apple is treating them differently is likely scared, full of BS or some combination of the two.  

Apple may have moved our native event app cheese! This summer they updated the App Store Review Guidelines. The primary change that is rumored to have an impact on event mobile apps is rule 4.2.6 – “Apps created from a commercial template or app generation service will be rejected.”

How Does the Update Affect Mobile Event Apps?

For most of us, this means that your branded event app will not be permitted in the App Store. If your event app provider architected their solution to be “multi-tenant” or a “container” app solution, attendees will first download the master app – e.g., CrowdCompass – and then select, or navigate to, your event. The negatives to this are an additional step for the user and no presence for your event in the App Store. In my opinion, these are nothing to lose sleep over or give cause for switching vendors.

If your event app provider uses a template to generate one-off event apps 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.

If you are one of the few who contracted and are paying for a custom app to be developed for your event (price tag is likely north of $40K), you should have no issues.

When Is This Happening and What Can You Do?

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

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 them how they think this may impact your app. Be sure to understand whether your app is architected as a multi-tenant/container 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.

Exceptions to the Rule?

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 downloads, which 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.

Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2017

Has your organization’s mobile event app been affected by these changes? What steps are you taking to ensure you’re not surprised?

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