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.
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.”
His apps would also appear to contradict the following guideline:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Image Credit: Apple Jail by Austen Hufford