iOS app approvals

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iOS app approvals
App Store Logo
Developer(s) Apple Inc.
Initial release July 10, 2008; 6 years ago (2008-07-10)

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,[1] although Apple may withdraw the ability for authors to do this at a later date.[2]

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.[3] Apple later changed the NDA[how?] citing that "it has created too much of a burden on developers"[4] but they did not reverse the decision to forbid publication of rejection notices.[5] Some applications are not available outside the US App Store at the request of the developer.[6]

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.[7]

Functional restrictions[edit]

Applicants have been denied apps for fundamentally duplicating Apple apps, for example by providing an email interface with no added functionality or use,[8] or having the same elements as the built in SMS app.[9] Applications have also been rejected for duplicating the functionality of iTunes.[10] Applications may be rejected if they are of only "limited utility".[11] Some reports indicate that toolbars must be placed at the bottom of the screen, and the vibration function should only be used for alerts.[12]

Approval process[edit]

Launched in July 2008, the App Store averaged about $1 million in application sales a day in its first month of existence.[13] 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.[14]

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, the application could take weeks. Apple streamlined the process at the end of 2009, and some apps were processed in a few days.[15] 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.

In 2010, the iPad app approval process could have been lengthy, similar to the weeks experienced previously for iPhone applications.[16] In June 2010, Steve Jobs at WWDC 2010 said 95% of apps were processed within 7 business days.[17] According to Apple's developer portal as of 3 July 2014, 98% of new and updated apps were processed within 5 business days.[18]

Review guidelines[edit]

On September 9, 2010, Apple published official App Store Review Guidelines for developers.[19] 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 App Store.

Apps that get featured will get promoted by Apple within the App Store, typically within a specific app category. There are no specific guidelines for getting an app featured, but in some notable cases, app developers that gather feedback directly from Apple before releasing their app have indicated that this improves chances of getting featured. [20]

Notable rejected apps[edit]

Newspaper and magazine content[edit]

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.[21][22] 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.[23]

"We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone ... Folks who want porn can buy an Android phone"

Steve Jobs[24]

"We can’t adapt European magazines to the standards of Utah."

— Mathias Müller von Blumencron (editor of Der Spiegel, warning that the news magazine would not alter its content for the App Store)[25]

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.[26][27][28][29] 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.[25][30] 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.[31] The Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ) warned that with such interventions Apple might be moving towards censorship.[31]

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".[24]

Pulitzer Prize Winning cartoons[edit]

In December 2009, Apple banned a cartoon app called NewsToons by cartoonist Mark Fiore, on the grounds that it "ridiculed public figures."[32][33] 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.[32][33][34] 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?"[33]

Baby Shaker[edit]

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 in order to quiet a crying cartoon baby onscreen.[35]

Nine Inch Nails[edit]

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".[36] 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".[37] Apple later permitted the update.[38]

Drone Strike Alert[edit]

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".[39]

Security[edit]

As of 2013, Apple employed mostly static analysis for their app review process, which means that dynamic code reassembly techniques could defeat the review process.[40][41]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sande, Steven (2008-09-15). "Podcaster app distributed via Ad Hoc after Apple rejection". Tuaw.com. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  2. ^ Palmer, Robert (2008-09-23). "Podcaster dev can't provision any more licenses". Tuaw.com. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  3. ^ "Apple Extends Non-Disclosure to App Store Rejection Letters". Mac Rumors. 2008-09-23. Archived from the original on 16 January 2010. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  4. ^ "Apple Drops iPhone Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA)". Mac Rumors. 2008-10-01. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  5. ^ Hansell, Saul (2008-10-01). "A Slice of Glasnost at Apple - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com". Bits.blogs.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  6. ^ "Eye-Fi Forums • View topic - Outside US". Forums.eye.fi. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  7. ^ David Murphy (8 January 2011). "Apple Pulls VLC Player from App Store Due to GPL". PCMag.com. PC Magazine. Archived from the original on 11 January 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2011. 
  8. ^ Palmer, Robert (2008-09-22). "Apple rejects another app for duplicating functionality". Tuaw.com. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  9. ^ "Syncode - Blog – iTweetReply 1.1 Rejected". Blog.syncode.com.au. Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  10. ^ "Almerica's Blog About Technology and Other Interesting Stuff: Podcaster rejeceted because it duplicates iTunes functionality". Almerica.blogspot.com. 2008-09-11. Archived from the original on 15 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  11. ^ "MacRumors iPhone Blog: Apple Rejecting Apps Based on 'Limited Utility'". Macrumors.com. 2008-09-04. Archived from the original on 15 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  12. ^ Sadun, Erica (2008-08-08). "Dear Auntie TUAW: AppStore Rejection". Tuaw.com. Archived from the original on 5 December 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  13. ^ "AppStore". 
  14. ^ "Thoughts on the iPhone App Review Process". 
  15. ^ "Apple's New Years Resolution". 
  16. ^ "iPad App Submission". 
  17. ^ WWDC 2010 Steve Jobs on the App Store.
  18. ^ App Store Approval Process. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  19. ^ App Store Review Guidelines - App Store Resource Center
  20. ^ http://www.internetretailer.com/2014/03/24/how-threadless-sewed-top-spot-apples-app-store
  21. ^ "The Sun's 'obscene' Page 3 girls get iPhone newspaper app banned by Apple". London: Guardian. 2009-05-06. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  22. ^ Sherwood, James (2009-05-05). "Apple bans Page 3 from iPhone app". Reghardware.co.uk. Archived from the original on 26 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  23. ^ Logged in as click here to log out (2009-05-24). "Apple backtracks over ban on ebook application Eucalyptus | Technology | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  24. ^ a b Jack Schofield (2010-05-10). "Wikipedia's porn purge, and cleaning up for the iPad". The Guardian. 
  25. ^ a b Pfanner, Eric (2010-03-14). "Publishers Question Apple’s Rejection of Nudity". NYTimes.com. Archived from the original on 30 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  26. ^ MG Siegler (Feb 23, 2010). "Apple, There’s Pornography On My iPhone. The App Is Called Safari. You Made It.". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2010. 
  27. ^ "Gay iPorn - IPhone ready site". 
  28. ^ Kincaid, Jason (Feb 20, 2010). "The New App Store Rules: No Swimsuits, No Skin, And No Innuendo". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on 26 May 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2010. 
  29. ^ Charles "Zan" Christensen (May 24, 2010). "iPad Publishing No Savior for Small Press, LGBT Comics Creators". Prism Comics. Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2010. 
  30. ^ Goebel, Markus (2010-03-29). "Europe’s biggest publisher embraces the WePad". Techcrunch. Archived from the original on 14 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  31. ^ a b Mercedes Bunz: German publisher in row with Apple over pin-ups in iPhone app The Guardian, 9 March 2010
  32. ^ a b Paul, Ian (2010-04-16). "Apple Rejects Pulitzer Prize Winner's App". PC World. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  33. ^ a b c Stelter, Brian (2010-04-16). "A Pulitzer Winner Gets Apple’s Reconsideration". New York Times. Archived from the original on 17 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  34. ^ "Slashdot Apple Story | Apple Blocks Cartoonist From App Store". Slashdot. Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  35. ^ "Baby Shaker Game Causes Outrage | BBC". BBC News. 2009-04-24. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  36. ^ trent_reznor. "Trent Reznor (trent_reznor) on Twitter". Twitter.com. Retrieved December 2, 2009. 
  37. ^ "NIN iPhone app rejection". Forum.nin.com. Retrieved December 2, 2009. 
  38. ^ "Apple Allows NIN App Update". Uk.i4u.com. May 11, 2009. Retrieved December 2, 2009. 
  39. ^ "Apple bans ‘drone strike’ app". Infosecurity Magazine. Retrieved November 5, 2012. 
  40. ^ http://www.networkworld.com/news/2013/081913-jekyll-test-attack-sneaks-through-272947.html
  41. ^ http://www.technologyreview.com/news/518096/remotely-assembled-malware-blows-past-apples-screening-process/