Apple's App Review Criteria

appwallEven though iOS developers have complained incessantly about the tyrannical control Apple has exercised over the App Store, there is something to be said about how such a vibrant and thriving application ecosystem has evolved. In any case, it is also extremely refreshing that Apple has finally decided to take the covers off and shed some light on their internal review process that has often seemed to be quite random from an outside perspective.

App review board

In addition to publishing the internal app review criteria, Apple has also set up an App Review Board where developers have the opportunity to appeal a decision if they believe that Apple misunderstood some aspect of the app functionality or technical implementation. In a very interesting statement, Apple commented, "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." We'll see if that changes the past trend of app developers going to press for publicity after a particularly interesting rejection.

No more Fart apps

Apple acknowledged recently, "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." Like many of the general guidelines and rules, this is a very subjective statement, but Apple also goes so far as to acknowledge and even embrace the ambiguity. In another comment, Apple said, "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."

Quality counts

While the app store has been criticized by many observers as chock-full of "crap apps," Apple is apparently trying to make a concerted effort to improve the overall quality of the App Store. According to Apple, "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." Again, while very subjective, it also makes it clear which apps Apple has no problem rejecting.

User interface

Even though Apple hasn't been enforcing this rule nearly as strongly as they did early in the App Store's history, they continue to stress that, "Apps must comply with all terms and conditions explained in the Apple iPhone Human Interface Guidelines and the Apple iPad Human Interface Guidelines," and "Apple and our customers place a high value on simple, refined, creative, well thought through interfaces. They take more work but are worth it. Apple sets a high bar. If your user interface is complex or less than very good, it may be rejected."

App Store guidance

Whether you're a veteran iOS developer or just thinking about getting started with your first app, you should definitely take a few minutes to review the App Store Review Guidelines. You'll need to log in to your developer account to view the details, as Apple has chosen not to make them available to the general public. It also might be worth it to check back occasionally, as Apple has communicated that the Review Guidelines are a living, breathing document that will continue to evolve over time. It's exciting to see how Apple has listened to the developer community and added a new layer of transparency to the process.

The unveiling of the previously undisclosed rules

January-February 2011
Creating Apps
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