Aug 15

This is the second part in a series about iPhone application being rejected by the App Store. You can read the previous part here: 57 Ways To Get Your iPhone Application Rejected From The App Store and the accompanying App Store Rejection Reasons list.

I always inform my clients about the “objectionable content” clause in Apple’s iPhone developer agreement to let them know that there is always a risk that Apple will reject the app and their development investment may be lost. Some clients find this level of risk to be unacceptable, and they walk away from the platform. This self censorship is not good for my business, and in most cases it’s not good for Apple either.

When I was approached by the publishers of this book I didn’t imagine that it would get caught up in the objectionable content morass. The book is political satire and in my opinion hilarious. Each page has a real photo of a famous politician to which Mr. Lee has added his own cartoon style talk bubbles. With the limited amount of text on each page, I thought this would make a great iPhone app. Apple unfortunately thought otherwise. After five weeks in review, the app was rejected because it was “defamatory”.

Steve Jobs famously replied to a developer who had developed an app that counted down the number days remaining of the Bush administration. Steve’s defense of that rejection was to ask why should Apple risk offending half their customer base. I don’t know if that put the kibosh on all apps that could raise some political ire. I didn’t tally the jabs in Election Daze to see if one side came out ahead, but it seemed pretty evenhanded to me.

In the end my client decided to drop the fight with Apple. The presidential election was quickly approaching and their carefully timed promotional campaign was not going to be able to ride the tide of political interest.

My second example is an app that we knew from the beginning was going to be a tough battle with Apple. The client was prepared for this and had the patience and resources to ride it out. The application is Bikini Blast which is a wallpaper download type app with photos of, you guessed it, women in bikinis. (I want to point out that we also developed iWallpaper for this client and that app has a category called “Hunks”. So this is not a gender issue.)

Our client sells wallpapers and applications for many other phones, so he has experience dealing with all the major carriers and their content rules and he used that experience when selecting content for Bikini Blast.

Note to Apple: All the major carries have published very clear guidelines on what is acceptable content and what is not. Furthermore they have outsourced the approval of such content to a few companies that specialize in this. I think this is a great way to establish a policy and then take a step back from the daily headaches of deciding what to approve and what to reject.

Bikini Blast was submitted to the App Store in October 2008. Then we heard nothing. This was before Apple started sending out the “this app is going to take longer to approve emails”. So no email. No phone call. No smoke signals. Just complete silence for FOUR MONTHS. Then suddenly out of the blue in January 2009 the client received the approval email.

I said in the first part of this series that these spectacular rejections and wait times are exceptions. However, the point is that they do happen often enough to give businesses pause before diving into iPhone application development. It is difficult to build a business around a platform when the rules are not known, the wait times are indeterminate, the communication is nonexistent, and there is no way to appeal decisions or even have a discussion with anyone responsible for the process.

If you thought four months was a long time to put your business on hold, that’s nothing compared to the next story. And all you have to do is wait until Monday for the next installment of this series.

written by Nick \\ tags:

3 Responses to “App Store Rejections: Can You Define “Objectionable” Content Please?”

  1. Rob Page Says:

    Goodness, this is discouraging. My content has no nudity or even profanity and the models are wearing more than in Bikini Blast. But I’m not about to spend time and $$ hiring somebody to develop an app just to get rejected.

    What’s an independent guy like me to do?

  2. Nick Says:

    @Rob: First, let me repeat my assertion that only a very small fraction of apps do get flat-out rejected or significantly delayed, so the odds are still in your favor. If there are existing apps on the App Store that have more risqué content than what you’re planning, then you should feel relatively safe. There fact that there are significant uncertainties and large unknowns in the process, is the problem. Potential app developers and entrepreneurs like yourself, will hesitate to embark on projects that push the limits of the iPhone platform, and Apple will lose in the long run.

    The next time I have a client whose project seems like a candidate for rejection, I will probably create a small skeleton app with some representative content (e.g. a simple text or image viewer) and submit that for approval. As soon as Apple approves the skeleton app, I can remove it from sale on the App Store and start developing the full application. This is by no means a foolproof method, since Apple’s reviewers are not known for consistency. But until Apple publishes their secret rules, or creates some kind of pre-approval process, then this is the best you can do to reduce your risk.

  3. Otis Ryder Says:

    My app has been stuck in the review process for 24 days. Its one of Apple’s biggest money makers, it has been in one of there television commercials and it helps to sell tons of iPhones. It seems to be all about unfiltered access to the internet and its rating. The full story is here: iBird is Stuck in the Review Process – How Do I Free it

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