The short answer to this question is there is no short answer. You can reskin a code as many times as you like, but fewer reskins—like fewer black eyes—may improve the appearance of your portfolio.
Apple has established no clear precedent, and in typical Apple fashion, when they do flag an account, they aren’t necessarily forthcoming with all of the factors in their decision. This smoke-and-mirrors approach to what is “permissible” makes it difficult to say with certainty, “You’re safe if you stand there, but stepping over this line will get you into trouble.”
Instead of wringing our hands, let’s reframe the question and split it in two: 1) How many reskins are good for the health of one’s app business? 2) And conversely, at what point can reskins become detrimental?
Sure, reskin a code. But publish beautiful apps.
Many, many reskins are good for business as long as you stay focused on quality. Unique, beautiful, and entertaining apps fare better in every way than cheap knockoffs of other people’s stuff. Yet most reskins are easy to identify as reskins due to poor design: weak icons, stale color palettes, forgettable character artwork, and an overall lack of attractive branding.
Some developers playing the reskinning angle are often more interested in making a quick buck than they are in pursuing excellence or giving their apps long-term viability. Don’t be one of them. Bad design will always be a bullseye for a company like Apple that so emphatically trumpets good design.
Apple has made it clear that they do not care if you reuse code assets as long as you’re making their brand look good by publishing beautiful apps.
Takeaway – Investing in top-quality design and giving your designers the freedom to turn your app into a work of art will not only keep your apps under the radar but will also pays dividends in App Store revenues. Reskin a code as many times as you like as long as each reskin looks fantastic.
Talented, ambitious people quickly tire of reskins.
Reskins can be detrimental because they are boring: they don’t excite designers, and they represent monotonous, unchallenging work for programmers. You are, in effect, hobbling your thoroughbreds if you’re asking your people to work at one-half or one-third their potential. Asking a talented designer to create new graphics for a crappy reskin is like asking an Olympic sprinter to jog to the grocery store.
Before long, your talent will ask to be put on different projects, or they’ll simply disappear.
If you insist on popping off crappy reskins like so many belches, then I’ll leave you with two final considerations:
- At the very least, create two or more app companies and iTunes Developer accounts and split your reskins between them. That way, if one account gets flagged or removed entirely, then your entire business isn’t compromised.
- Most investors and prospective buyers of app businesses pay much smaller sums for portfolios of reskins. Because you don’t actually own the code assets—only the publishing rights, so to speak—they can only value the portfolio according to the revenues, usually for the last 12 months. Custom, from-scratch codes that you own outright are much more valuable, and therefore, attractive, to buyers.
Final Takeaway – Never let short-term gains of cheap reskins blind you to the long-term value of high-quality reskins (or custom codes).