Apple’s New App Store Review Guidelines

Apple issued a statement on September 9 regarding changes they’ve made to their App Store review guidelines. From the statement:

We are continually trying to make the App Store even better. We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year.

These changes have removed the ban on third-party development tools and they’ve also removed the language in section 3.3.9 that appeared to be written specifically to ban AdMob.

Apple has also published a seven page document accessible to iPhone developers that finally gives transparency to Apple’s review guidelines. The document (a copy of which can be found with a quick Google search) will be changed as new apps are submitted that force Apple to create new rules about what will and won’t be accepted.

The language in these guidelines is very casually written, not the type of writing you may expect from a company as large as Apple. Here’s an example bullet point from the introduction that will give you a feel for what type of writing we’re talking about:

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.

Regardless of how these guidelines are written, the document’s mere existence is a great thing for developers. It doesn’t matter whether Apple decided to publish their guidelines because of pressure from developers, customers, or even the FCC (as the WSJ believes), this is good news. Developers will be more willing to take the time developing an application now that they have a better understanding of what will get it rejected.

And finally, here’s a few rules from the guidelines that I thought were particularly interesting:

2.11 Apps that duplicate apps already in the App Store may be rejected, particularly if there are many of them

3.10 Developers who attempt to manipulate or cheat the user reviews or chart ranking in the App Store with fake or paid reviews, or any other inappropriate methods will be removed from the iOS Developer Program

11.11 In general, the more expensive your app, the more thoroughly we will review it

Some of the rules in the guidelines were obvious and others have been hinted at in rejection letters sent to developers, but I’m glad that we now have a place where the rules are written out in plain English. One could still argue that this whole App Store approval process is a convoluted mess, but at least we now have a better understanding of just how convoluted of a mess it is.