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I work on an iOS app for a company that sells educational courses, to access the app you need an account and paid subscription on the website.

Apple have recently rejected our application (out of the blue) quoting section 11.13 of the App Store Review Guidelines.

Additionally, we found that your app provides access to account registration.

As this also provides the user access to mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app, this is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.

While I understand the premise of this rule, I don't understand how many high profile apps with a subscription model that doesn't rely on IAP (i.e. Spotify, Rdio, Netflix) are allowed to exist in the App Store.

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Besides a simple "It's Apple's App Store and they'll do as they want to"...

Netflix does not provide any registration mechanism within the app. When you download the app, the first thing you get is a login screen (and a Forgot Password link). Nothing else is present.

Spotify has a registration mechanism in the app, but it also allows you to purchase subscriptions within the app. Rdio uses the same method. (As an aside, Rdio charges more for the in-app subscription than it does if you use their website to subscribe, to account for the 30% cut that Apple takes. This is allowed.)

Basically the answer is, you can provide a registration mechanism in the app, but you must also set up IAP for your paid subscription. Otherwise, you can provide a login screen for your customers who have subscribed outside of the app, but no links to your registration or subscription websites.

Look at the Review Guidelines section 11.14 (emphasis mine):

Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video and cloud storage) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the App, as long as there is no button or external link in the App to purchase the approved content. Apple will only receive a portion of revenues for content purchased inside the App

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