The New App Store Guidelines: What You Need To Know

For the first time ever, after 250,000 apps have been developed, Apple finally decided to release some guidelines for developers to help them understand the app review process. The document is not only informative, but also entertaining to read. In general, for an app to make it through the somewhat opaque-until-now App approval process it needs to be a serious app (“We don’t need any more Fart apps”), it can’t crash or have bugs, it can’t be a beta or “practice” app that “looks like it was cobbled together in a few days,” and can’t “cross the line” in terms of being offensive. Oh, and when Apple rejects your app, if “you run to the press and trash us,” that will count against you.

The whole document is about keeping developers in line, but at least it is done with humor. Apps that contain objectionable material or pornography will be rejected, as will any apps which try to go around the App Store for payments or purchases, or have “interfaces that mimic any iPod interface.” Also, don’t try to use any of the “location-based APIs for automatic or autonomous control of vehicles, aircraft, or other devices.” All of this, of course, is subject to change.

Apple also acknowledges that it is being stricter with apps than with songs or books in iTunes, which some might say is hypocritical. But here is how Apple responds, along with some high-level principles (the full guidelines are embedded below).

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. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store. It may help to keep some of our broader themes in mind:

  • We have lots of kids downloading lots of apps, and parental controls don’t work unless the parents set them up (many don’t). So know that we’re keeping an eye out for the kids.
  • We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, 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.
  • If your app is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.
  • This is a living document, and new apps presenting new questions may result in new rules at any time. Perhaps your app will trigger this.

Image credit: Flickr/Michael Stout