iOS app approvals
|Initial release||July 10, 2008|
Applications are subject to approval by Apple, as outlined in the SDK agreement, for basic reliability testing and other analysis. Applications may still be distributed ad hoc if they are rejected, by the author manually submitting a request to Apple to license the application to individual iPhones, although Apple may withdraw the ability for authors to do this at a later date.
Non-disclosure agreements have always forbidden developers from publishing the content of their rejection notices, but Apple has now started labeling their rejection letters with Non-Disclosure (NDA) warning THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS MESSAGE IS UNDER NON-DISCLOSURE. Apple later changed the NDA[how?] citing that "it has created too much of a burden on developers" but they did not reverse the decision to forbid publication of rejection notices. Some applications are not available outside the US App Store at the request of the developer. Since so many developers have published rejection emails Apple now most often call submitters to verbally tell them their rejection notice.
In addition, Apple has removed software licensed under the GPL from the App Store after complaints from one of the program's developers, claiming that the App Store's terms of service are inconsistent with the GPL.
Applicants have been denied apps for fundamentally duplicating Apple apps, for example by providing an email interface with no added functionality or use, or having the same elements as the built in SMS app. Applications have also been rejected for duplicating the functionality of iTunes. Applications may be rejected if they are of only "limited utility". Some reports indicate that toolbars must be placed at the bottom of the screen, and the vibration function should only be used for alerts.
Launched in July 2008, the App Store started averaging about million a day in downloads in its first month of existence. To get applications into the App Store, developers were required to submit their app and wait for approval or rejection by Apple. Rejected apps were given feedback on the reason they were rejected so they could be modified and resubmitted.
The approval process for Apple has changed over time in terms of its feedback to developers and the time delay for apps to be approved. In July 2009, application approval could take weeks. Apple streamlined the process at the end of 2009, and app approval was sometimes performed in a few days. In addition, in December 2009, the App Store began providing detailed feedback to developers on the approval process rather than simply showing "Waiting for Approval" and "Approved" or "Rejected."
Over time, requirements have evolved as trends have appeared in application development. For example, applications accessing the user's location for advertising were valid prior to the fall of 2009. After this point, apps were rejected that did not provide more robust user experience beyond simply using location data for advertising. Other requirements, such as using undocumented APIs, have always led to rejection.
There is less complete data on the iPad approval process due to the newness of the platform, but the process can be lengthy, similar to the weeks experienced previously for iPhone applications.
On September 9, 2010, Apple published official App Store Review Guidelines for developers. At this time several development restrictions were lifted and many developers of previously rejected applications were asked to resubmit their applications under the new guidelines. The App Review Guideline Document is a living document that Apple can change at any time. Essentially the guidelines are put in place to prevent problems with pornography, violence, legal issues, user experience, and other more specific guidelines in apps. Apple checks each app against these guidelines before approving it for sale and inclusion on the AppStore.
Notable rejected apps
Newspaper and magazine content
In May 2009, Apple rejected the first version of 'Newspapers', an iPhone app that let users read content from 50+ newspapers around the world, including the New York Times, France's Le Monde, and the United Kingdom tabloid The Sun. The app was rejected because the topless "Page 3" girls daily features were described as "obscene". A second version of the application was submitted, removing access to The Sun, and adding a price tag of £0.59. The app was made available in the summer, after the release of the iPhone 3.0 software. Another application, of similar nature to 'Newspapers', called 'Eucalyptus' allowed users to download e-books to their iPhone, though was rejected by Apple because one of the e-books that could have been downloaded was the Kama Sutra. The ban has since been lifted.
"We can’t adapt European magazines to the standards of Utah."
The App Store has Playboy and Sports Illustrated adult-rated apps that have yet to be removed, while some apps by others were removed citing adult content which has resulted in accusations of hypocrisy. Despite this, adult sites continue to market for iPhone and iPad users. In November 2009, the application of Stern (a mainstream German weekly magazine with a print circulation of about 900,000) was deleted for several weeks without warning. In January 2010, Europe's largest newspaper, German tabloid Bild, removed content from the iPhone version of its print edition at the request of Apple, and later it had to modify one of its applications - like in the Stern case because of nudity. The Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ) warned that with such interventions Apple might be moving towards censorship.
The Guardian described rejection of explicit content by Apple as analogous to that of the distributor WH Smith, a main distributor which for many years imposed content restrictions on British publishers. Workers at the fashion magazine Dazed & Confused have nicknamed their iPad edition the "Iran edition".
Pulitzer Prize Winning cartoons
In December 2009, Apple banned a cartoon app called NewsToons by cartoonist Mark Fiore, on the grounds that it "ridiculed public figures." In April 2010, Fiore won the Pulitzer prize for his political satire cartoons, making history as the very first internet-only cartoonist to win the prestigious journalistic prize. Following public outcry after the story broke in the wake of the award, Apple asked Fiore to resubmit his app, and it was subsequently accepted. Fiore said, "Sure, mine might get approved, but what about someone who hasn’t won a Pulitzer and who is maybe making a better political app than mine? Do you need some media frenzy to get an app approved that has political material?"
In April 2009, a game called Baby Shaker was approved for the App Store then later removed due to complaints. The game allowed the user to shake their phone until an image of a cartoon baby on the screen died.
Nine Inch Nails
In May 2009, Trent Reznor of the rock band Nine Inch Nails announced, via his Twitter account, that Apple had rejected an update to the Nine Inch Nails application due to "objectionable content". The developer posted a message on the Nine Inch Nails discussion boards explaining the situation further:
"v1.0 is live. v1.0.3 got rejected due to content yet the app has no content in it. This was mainly a stability release to fix the bug that crashes the app for international users. The bug was fixed 24 hours after 1.0 went live and we have been waiting for Apple to approve it ever since. Meanwhile the app continues to get a growing number of 1 star ratings from international users understandably frustrated by the bug, "but looks like our hands are tied". Apple later permitted the update.
Drone Strike Alert
In August 2012, Josh Begley created an iPhone app that sent out a Push notification whenever a US military Drone aircraft struck a target. The app was rejected, Apple finding the content "objectionable and crude".
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