iPhone and iPad

8 Ridiculous & Inconsistent Apple App Store Guidelines [Opinion]

Chris Hoffman 25-04-2012

8 Ridiculous & Inconsistent Apple App Store Guidelines [Opinion] image43Here’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 Faux News: 10 Best Websites for Fake News & Satire Read More 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.

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 Six Ultra Violent Video Games That Are Ultra Awesome Video games are an inherently violent art form. Many of the most popular games involve killing hundreds of enemies without so much as a second thought. Call of Duty, the most popular video game ever... Read More are still available on the app store.



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 5 Reasons to Choose Android Over iPhone If you’re looking at buying a smartphone, you’re probably going to buy an Android device or an iPhone (sorry, Microsoft). What’s the difference, and which should you choose? We recently gave the pro-iPhone side of... Read More 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 16 Free, Fun, Simple & Addictive Games to Take the Edge Off Read More 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 How To Develop A Simple iPhone App & Submit It To iTunes Read More and submit the app How To Submit Your Own App To The iTunes App Store So you've programmed your first iOS app and you want to get it uploaded and submitted to the iTunes store? Well, as I found out recently, it's not quite as easy as it sounds. The... Read More .

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 Make Free Calls from iPhone With The Official Google Voice App Read More 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?


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 5 Reasons To Choose iPhone Over Android [Opinion] If you’re considering buying your first smartphone, you’ve got a fairly big decision to make. As well as choosing a carrier, plan and minimum contract period you then have to trawl through the barrage of... Read More and its great apps The Best New iOS Apps of 2015 (And Our Favorite Updates) We've sorted through the stream of new apps that arrived in 2015 and devised a list of our favourites just for you. Read More while thinking it’s silly that Apple restricts satire to “professionals”.

Image Credit: Apple Jail by Austen Hufford

Related topics: Apple, Mac App Store.

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  1. iPhone apps
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  4. Stoyan Deckoff
    April 26, 2012 at 9:14 am

    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
      April 28, 2012 at 5:11 am

      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?

      • Stoyan Deckoff
        April 28, 2012 at 5:39 am

        100% agree

      • Habib Alamin
        May 8, 2012 at 5:51 am

        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
          July 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm

          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
          July 20, 2012 at 4:38 am

          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.

      • Habib Alamin
        July 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm

        "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
          July 20, 2012 at 4:39 am

          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
          July 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm

          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)?

  5. Achraf52
    April 26, 2012 at 12:56 am

    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
      April 28, 2012 at 5:09 am

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

  6. Fred
    April 26, 2012 at 12:33 am

    If it's by Apple, it's Crapple!

    • Chris Hoffman
      April 28, 2012 at 5:15 am

      They do make good hardware, though -- it's sad because I like the hardware and support, but I can't buy an iOS device while they're so locked down.

      I've never bought any Apple product, actually -- Apple's iron first is a real problem to me.

  7. Mahkoe
    April 25, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    To be fair, a lot of the basic principles make sense. Avoid suggestive themes when apps are available to children, no racism, no conspiracy bs, etc. Maybe if Apple were to just outright say they make somewhat arbitrary decisions based on nonetheless good values, this wouldn't be a problem. Except for the shameless "No mentioning other platforms" stuff. I have to say that's a huge dick move, and suggests Apple is scared of competition...

    • Chris Hoffman
      April 28, 2012 at 5:12 am

      Still, the iTunes store is full of music with profanity, movies with extreme violence and sexual content -- the iTunes book store even sells the Kama Sutra.

      Why is it that we're only worried about kids getting their hands on inappropriate apps?

      Just put in some good parental controls and app ratings and let people do that they like -- it's what Apple does everywhere else in iTunes.

      If music, movies and books were held to the same content standards as apps, no one would like iTunes.

  8. Steve
    April 25, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    It's the Apple eco-system and despite all their quirks, and there are many, its still essentially a good system. A spot of cinema style ratings to edit selected content from certain age groups wouldn't go amiss.

    My personal gripe with this if I was a subscriber is the iTunes program on your pc is such a dog for permissions and file/app management...

    • Chris Hoffman
      April 28, 2012 at 5:14 am

      I'd like to see them focus more on quality than silly rules -- satire restricted to professionals, really? What if only "professional" authors could submit books to the iTunes book store? That's nuts.

      • Habib Alamin
        May 8, 2012 at 5:53 am

        And what defines a professional anyway? They're just driving away satirists that are making good content and once they become professional, do they think they're gonna come running to Apple when they were rejected last time?