8 Ridiculous & Inconsistent Apple App Store Guidelines [Opinion]

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Here’s a radical opinion – you should be able to run any apps you like on the devices you own. Apple doesn’t agree, and it’s twisted itself into pretzels creating arbitrary rules for what app developers – and you – can do with your device.

These guidelines – although Apple reserves the right to change them at any time – are actually an improvement over the past situation, where there was no public list of guidelines. Apple would reject apps for reasons it never warned developers of in advance, creating an uncertain environment for developers trying to put food on the table.

Satire Is Only For Professionals

Apple’s app store guidelines ban “content that ridicules public figures“. They took some heat when they banned a Pulitzer-Prize-winning satirist’s app from the app store, so they added an exemption:

Professional political satirists and humorists are exempt from the ban on offensive or mean-spirited commentary.

If you want to create a satirical or comedic app, I hope you can convince Apple that you’re a professional and not an amateur. Satire is only for professionals and can’t be trusted to the masses.

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No Fart Apps – Unless You Run The App Store

We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps.

This one seems fairly defensible – who really wants disgusting stuff like that cluttering up the app store? Surely not Phillip Shoemaker, the man overseeing the app store at Apple. Except Phillip Shoemaker sold his own fart and urination apps when this guideline was introduced – Animal Farts and iWiz. Animal Farts lets you “experience farts from an animal perspective.”

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His apps would also appear to contradict the following guideline:

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Apps that are primarily designed to upset or disgust users will be rejected.

Maybe Phillip was just trying to cut out the competition.

No Sexually Suggestive Apps – But Playboy Is Okay

Apple doesn’t allow “sexually suggestive apps” and has removed and barred thousands of them from its app store. Don’t worry, though – you’ll still find Playboy, Sports Illustrated, and other “mainstream” apps from big corporations in the app store.

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At the time of writing, Playboy’s screenshot on the app store website contained the words “dirty, sexy politics“. Apple doesn’t consider that “sexually suggestive”.

No Realistic Depictions Of Weapons – Sometimes

Apps involving realistic depictions of weapons in such a way as to encourage illegal or reckless use of such weapons will be rejected.

This would appear to ban video games with realistic violence, but you can breathe a sigh of relief – the Grand Theft Auto series and other violent video games are still available on the app store.

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If Grand Theft Auto doesn’t qualify – there are two guns in the featured screenshot! – I can’t imagine what else would.

No Mentioning Other Platforms Exist

Apps with metadata that mentions the name of any other mobile platform will be rejected.

One developer stumbled over this guideline when he included the text “Finalist in Google’s Android Developer’s Challenge!” in the description of his app. This one just seems petty.

Apps Must Provide Lasting Entertainment – Maybe

Apps that are not very useful or do not provide any lasting entertainment value may be rejected.

Apps must provide “lasting entertainment value” which seems a bit vague. It’s a questionable guideline, too – I’ve played short games that only lasted five or ten minutes, but were fantastic. I guess they couldn’t exist on iOS – or could they? This guideline doesn’t clear that up. I guess you’ll find out after you develop and submit the app.

No Competition

One area that Apple has thankfully eased up on is banning competition – or apps that “duplicate features that come with the iPhone”. Of course, this only happened after Apple came under investigation from the US government.

Apple blocked Google Voice from running on the iPhone for over a year, although they said they were just “studying it“. Does anyone actually believe it took Apple over a year to study an app?

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Write A Book Instead

In a nutshell, this is why people are upset about Apple’s closed platform:

We view Apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical app.

Why exactly are apps so special, while Apple allows such content everywhere else in the iTunes store? Apple’s iron grip on apps is particularly pernicious because you can buy movies, books, and songs from elsewhere and place them on your iOS device, while only apps in the app store can be installed on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Apple’s walled garden wouldn’t be so bad if there was a door people could choose to escape from.

Sure, there’s jailbreaking. But if you’re an Apple fan that jailbreaks, you should know that Apple fought to keep jailbreaking illegal in the USA – a criminal act. As Apple argued:

iPhone purchasers explicitly agree to a limited license to the OS, and do not ever have the right to modify their particular copy of the OS.

What do you think of these app store guidelines? It’s okay, Apple fans – you can love the iPhone and its great apps while thinking it’s silly that Apple restricts satire to “professionals”.

Image Credit: Apple Jail by Austen Hufford

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Comments (21)
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  • Stoyan Deckoff

    I approve apple’s decision to hold firm grip over apps, to some extent, of course. I am an avid user myself, and really love the OS. Unfortunately I stumble upon poorly-written, non-functional and plain ugly apps too often for my taste. Not to mention malware apps that are plaguing Android OS. Evaluation process might solve this problem a bit. I had the opportunity to play with my cousin’s iPhone and everything looks sleek and stylish. But impossible to be customized…
    On the other hand, “evaluating” apps like Google voice and all the other stupid restrictions, are just, well, stupid. I’d rather keep my Android :)

    • Chris Hoffman

      It doesn’t upset me too much that Apple wants to ensure quality, but the content restrictions are really upsetting to me — why should only professionals be allowed to produce satire? Why should competing apps like Google Voice be banned for a year while Apple says they’re “evaluating” them? Why should Apple not allow people to mention Android in an app’s description — how does that ensure quality?

    • Habib Alamin

      “why should only professionals be allowed to produce satire? Why should competing apps like Google Voice be banned for a year while Apple says they’re “evaluating” them?”

      I agree with those, but the last one about mentioning Android is understandable to me. It goes too far, because you can’t mention Android at all, but clearly Apple believes the standards of Android apps and their stores are too low, so if someone is in the top 10 in Android, doesn’t mean it will be a good iPhone app. Apple doesn’t want people using their Android scale of how good an app is, because it allows lower quality apps to look good.

    • Chris Hoffman

      Still, it provides some degree of context — if an iPhone game comes to Android, it will be helpful to say “The hit iPhone game with over X downloads is now on Android!” rather than pretending the game was never before released.

    • Habib Alamin

      True, but it’s a tradeoff. Do you want a bit of context at the expense of customers buying crapps that say, “Top 10 pick in Android Gamers’ Weekly” for example and then finding out that Top 10 standards aren’t really the same between platform (whether you think they are or not is irrelevant, Apple believes the customers will have poor experiences and it’s their decision)?

    • Habib Alamin

      I also agree 100%. I understand that a walled garden keeps out invaders, is supposed to keep the customer more safe, secure, keep out poor apps, etc. However, some of the rules are a bit stupid and the enforcement is inconsistent. I understand we’re all humans, but it’d be cool if they vetted their vetting process.

      At the end of the day, it’s their land and your decision to buy into the garden.

      I have an iPhone and I’m constantly jailbreaking for the freedom and certain tweaks and unjailbreaking so I can have a responsive, safe device that doesn’t crash all the time. There’s pros and cons to each side. The grass is always greener to me.

    • Darren

      On the jailing issue thank god for the european unión. They have not a hope in hell in getting their jailbreak las into countries like the Eire for example. So its perfectly legal from just about everything country outside of the usa

    • Chris Hoffman

      I believe jailbreaking is legal in the US (it was illegal for a while, though).

      That said, I live in Canada and — from what I can see, I can’t find much information — it will soon be illegal to jailbreak.

      You have to jailbreak to do things like set your default browser, so this means only criminals would be able to change their default browser on an iPhone/iPad under such laws. That’s crazy to me; I’ll stay away from Apple products rather than be a criminal, thanks.

    • Stoyan Deckoff

      100% agree

  • Achraf52

    When I read the last that state you are not allowed to modify your device, then I just understand that just an crazy one who wrote everything .

    • Chris Hoffman

      Well, lots of Apple fans do modify their devices — but that’s Apple’s position. I don’t really like it!

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.