How to get rejected from the App Store

Often puzzling, always frustrating, the list of reasons why developers are denied access to Apple's iPhone App Store grows ever longer

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6. Include "objectionable" content. The App Store is no democracy, which might be why Apple doesn't feel inclined to support free speech. A joke app that simulated clubbing baby seals was recently rejected -- a move that earned Apple a box of chocolates from PETA. A rather angry, old Nine Inch Nails album was blocked, too. If those aren't objectionable enough for you, Apple also blocked Mark Fiore's political cartoons; a collection of copyright-free e-books that included the dreaded, centuries-old Kama Sutra; and a Chinese-language dictionary that had the temerity to include curse words.

7. Use Apple's APIs (without permission). Windows developers have long accused Microsoft of keeping its best APIs to itself so that third parties can't write applications that work as well as Microsoft's. But whether that's true of Microsoft, Apple makes no secret of the practice. Its license agreement explicitly forbids apps that use undocumented APIs. On the App Store, it's "do as I say, not as I do."

8. Use someone else's stuff. It's no surprise that Apple doesn't approve of apps that violate copyrights or trademarks, but the App Store screeners take enforcement of this rule to extremes. One app was rejected because it makes photos taken with the iPhone's built-in camera look too much like Polaroid pictures, and a BitTorrent app was rejected not because the app violates copyrights, but because someone could use the app to violate copyrights -- much like a Web browser, in other words.

9. Don't do enough. Some of us thought Armin Heinrich's $999, featureless I Am Rich app was an amusing satire on our gadget-obsessed culture, and Apple's market in particular. Apple thought it was a waste of space and promptly pulled it from the App Store -- so before you start work on that Brooklyn Bridge app, take note.

10. Design your own UI. Apple's Human Interface Guidelines are very explicit. If UI elements don't click and move just the way they're supposed to, or if your app otherwise doesn't look the way a good iPhone app should, expect a curt rejection note. Whatever your ideas about UI design, no matter how much research you've put into them, you're wrong.

11. Use graphics Apple doesn't like. Apple even reserves the right to reject apps on visuals alone. One app was rejected because a clock icon used in its UI looked too much like an icon Apple was using for another feature. Never mind that the app had been using the exact same icon for the past several versions; "if thine eye offendeth Apple ..."

12. Put photos on your desk. Sometimes Apple's objections simply defy explanation. When Australian developers Shifty Jelly asked for clarification why their photo frame app was rejected from the App Store, they received a curt email response from Steve Jobs himself: "We are not allowing apps that create their own desktops. Sorry." I guess that clause hasn't made it into the license terms yet -- maybe for iPhone SDK 5.0.

That's quite a list. Of course, to Apple's credit, a lot of apps that are rejected at first are approved for the App Store upon further review. Others require only minor code changes. For many developers, the hassle is worth it when you consider the scope of the App Store's audience.

For others, however, Apple's strict control over everything about their apps -- including their functionality, resource consumption, UI design, content, sales model, and time to market -- is simply too much to bear. For those developers, listening to the tales of woe from iPhone developers as they keep coming in, the grass on the other side of the fence must look greener every day.

This article, "How to get rejected from the App Store," originally appeared at Read more of Neil McAllister's Fatal Exception blog and follow the latest news in software development and mobile computing at

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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