Apple: If Your App Is Sneaky, Weak Or Creepy We’ll Reject It
Earlier this week Apple published its new app review guidelines, which it calls ” a living document,” ahead of its September 9 event. They emphasize quality, utility, originality and user consent/privacy — especially regarding location, Healthkit and kid-related apps. Apple has given itself wide latitude to reject apps that it deems insufficient, creatively weak, unethical […]
Earlier this week Apple published its new app review guidelines, which it calls ” a living document,” ahead of its September 9 event. They emphasize quality, utility, originality and user consent/privacy — especially regarding location, Healthkit and kid-related apps.
Apple has given itself wide latitude to reject apps that it deems insufficient, creatively weak, unethical or crossing the line in some way. For example, in the guidelines’ preamble it says in part:
- We have over a million Apps in the App Store. If your App doesn’t do something useful, unique or provide some form of lasting entertainment, or if your app is plain creepy, it may not be accepted.
- If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.
- We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, “I’ll know it when I see it”. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.
You can read the complete document but below are a few additional excerpts that I found noteworthy or interesting. In a few cases I’ve made comments. Otherwise these are the verbatim guidelines unedited by me.
- Apps that do not notify and obtain user consent before collecting, transmitting, or using location data will be rejected
- Location data can only be used when directly relevant to the features and services provided by the App to the user or to support approved advertising uses
- Comment: how directly relevant does “directly relevant” need to be? I would assume an app that has no relationship whatsoever to location is not directly relevant but there’s a pretty large gray area potentially
- Apps using the HealthKit framework that store users’ health information in iCloud will be rejected
- Apps may not use user data gathered from the HealthKit API for advertising or other use-based data mining purposes other than improving health, medical, and fitness management, or for the purpose of medical research
- Apps that share user data acquired via the HealthKit API with third parties without user consent will be rejected
- Apps that create alternate desktop/home screen environments or simulate multi-App widget experiences will be rejected
- Apple and our customers place a high value on simple, refined, creative, well thought through interfaces. They take more work but are worth it. Apple sets a high bar. If your user interface is complex or less than very good, it may be rejected
On “scraping and aggregation”:
- Apps that are simply web clippings, content aggregators, or a collection of links, may be rejected
On push notifications:
- Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind
- Comment: what about retail-related apps that send coupons via push? This might need further clarification or it could be a problem
- Apps that contain user generated content that is frequently pornographic (e.g. “Chat Roulette” Apps) will be rejected
- Comment: this rationale should have meant Snapchat’s rejection in its early days
- Apps may contain or quote religious text provided the quotes or translations are accurate and not misleading. Commentary should be educational or informative rather than inflammatory
- Comment: this should preclude any apps that promote “Jihad” (there are none currently); on Google Play there are almost 200 that respond to that query however
On apps for kids:
- Apps in the Kids Category must get parental permission or use a parental gate before allowing the user to link out of the app or engage in commerce
- Comment: this has been a big problem with so-called freemium games, where kids are making in-app purchases without parental knowledge/consent
Given that hardware differences are becoming less prominent, over time the major distinction between the iPhone and Android universes may be these rules and Apple’s much stricter (or more controlling) approach to app development.