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Apple gets tough on cheating developers in App Store guidelines

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Apple has clarified its position for developers regarding all efforts to game iTunes rating, steal data from users, copy other's work, saying it will remove their apps and expel them from its developer program.

In newly revised App Review Guidelines, revised since first being issued last September, Apple added a new bullet point:

"If you attempt to cheat the system (for example, by trying to trick the review process, steal data from users, copy another developer's work, or manipulate the ratings) your apps will be removed from the store and you will be expelled from the developer program."

The warning serves to address a series of problems ranging from certain developers creating fake iTunes accounts to leave flattering reviews; the apparent use of fraudulently hijacked accounts to inflate purchase numbers; and the listing of apps by developers who have simply copied others' work.

New reasons for app rejections

While incrementing the stated size of the App Store library from 250,000 to 350,000, Apple has also articulated a series of new reasons why it might reject an app.

"Apps that are simply a song or movie should be submitted to the iTunes store. Apps that are simply a book should be submitted to the iBookstore," the guidelines now say.

"Apps that arbitrarily restrict which users may use the app, such as by location or carrier, may be rejected," the guidelines add, raising a question about carrier specific apps, like those Verizon has used in the past to differentiate its offerings from identical phone models on other carriers.

Apple also now says that "apps which recommend that users restart their iOS device prior to installation or launch may be rejected," and notes to developers that "apps should have all included URLs fully functional when you submit it for review, such as support and privacy policy URLs."

The guidelines also clarify that "location data can only be used when directly relevant to the features and services provided by the app to the user or to support approved advertising uses."

Subscription policy

As noted earlier, the main change in the App Store Review Guidelines pertains to subscriptions. "Apps offering subscriptions must do so using IAP, Apple will share the same 70/30 revenue split with developers for these purchases, as set forth in the Developer Program License Agreement," Apple says.

"Apps can read or play approved content (magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video) that is sold outside of the app, for which Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues, provided that the same content is also offered in the app using IAP at the same price or less than it is offered outside the app. This applies to both purchased content and subscriptions."

It also specifies, "Apps that link to external mechanisms for purchasing content to be used in the app, such as a 'buy' button that goes to a web site to purchase a digital book, will be rejected."
post #2 of 15
Possibly barring against just recommending a restart of your device before opening the app sounds like a bit much. Sometimes it's quite necessary to do that for some larger and graphics heavy apps.
Although, I am just speaking as someone who still uses a 2g Touch. Maybe (probably) restarting to prevent crashing of heavier apps isn't so common on newer devices.
post #3 of 15
"If you attempt to cheat the system (for example, by trying to trick the review process, steal data from users, copy another developer's work, or manipulate the ratings) your apps will be removed from the store and you will be expelled from the developer program."

Well that does it. I'm going to switch to Android. This draconian closed platform is too confining for a free swinging hip guy like me.
post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

"If you attempt to cheat the system (for example, by trying to trick the review process, steal data from users, copy another developer's work, or manipulate the ratings) your apps will be removed from the store and you will be expelled from the developer program."

Well that does it. I'm going to switch to Android. This draconian closed platform is too confining for a free swinging hip guy like me.

You should be able to notice some of the crappy apps in the app store received tons of 5-star ratings with more or less the same content and machine-generated names. I'm more than happy to see these developers to be yanked out of the whole developer program.
post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blastdoor View Post

"If you attempt to cheat the system (for example, by trying to trick the review process, steal data from users, copy another developer's work, or manipulate the ratings) your apps will be removed from the store and you will be expelled from the developer program."

Well that does it. I'm going to switch to Android. This draconian closed platform is too confining for a free swinging hip guy like me.

Let's go to Android. We can easily decompile and repackage existing applications there.
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post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apps can read or play approved content (magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video) that is sold outside of the app, for which Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues, provided that the same content is also offered in the app using IAP at the same price or less than it is offered outside the app. This applies to both purchased content and subscriptions.

So general purchase apps, such as the Amazon Store, are forced to sell some items through in-app purchase, while the rest are sold using their own billing mechanisms? And companies aren't allowed to give out coupons or loyalty rewards on their web sites, because there is no mechanism for doing the same thing in the app store (and this would make the prices unequal)? Etc.

This all seems too complicated and not the thing that makes for the best user experience. Apple should just take a tiny cut of all purchases, make them all 1-click in-app, and be done with it.
post #7 of 15
These rules about purchases, combined with 30% Apple's cut, just scream about Apple being way to greedy. This has already angered some high-level developers, and in general creates an image of a pathologically greedy company. I think Apple needs to either cut their share, or relax the rules.

Also, I don't understand, how an app like Amazon or Groupon can exist within these rules? Maybe Apple has private deals with them, I don't know.
post #8 of 15
The in app purchases are for content to be consumed on your phone. It doesn't mean they get a 30% cut of EVERYTHING sold through the phone.
post #9 of 15
I think this is great. Apps should have a "substantiality" requirement - i.e. a public domain novel presented in a text control should not count as an app. It's cheeky and cynical and it makes it harder for people who did real work to get noticed.
post #10 of 15
It is only fair that a shop which adds a new sale through its store receives the benefit of such additional sale. If you found the contend on the net Apple takes no cut, but if the sale is made through iTunes it is only right that Apple gets rewarded for adding a customer.
Further, without Apple, the extra sale would not be made.
The success of the AppStore proves that the 70/30 cut is acceptable to developers so it is silly to whine that Apple’s 30% cut is too much.
On the whole the offer is very reasonable and publishers would be cutting their noses to spite their faces by not taking advantage of the huge new customer base Apple products offer.
Take it or leave it.
post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by NormM View Post

So general purchase apps, such as the Amazon Store, are forced to sell some items through in-app purchase, while the rest are sold using their own billing mechanisms? And companies aren't allowed to give out coupons or loyalty rewards on their web sites, because there is no mechanism for doing the same thing in the app store (and this would make the prices unequal)? Etc.

This all seems too complicated and not the thing that makes for the best user experience. Apple should just take a tiny cut of all purchases, make them all 1-click in-app, and be done with it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by serkol View Post

These rules about purchases, combined with 30% Apple's cut, just scream about Apple being way to greedy. This has already angered some high-level developers, and in general creates an image of a pathologically greedy company. I think Apple needs to either cut their share, or relax the rules.

Also, I don't understand, how an app like Amazon or Groupon can exist within these rules? Maybe Apple has private deals with them, I don't know.

No, "general purchase apps, such as the Amazon Store," are prohibited from using in-app purchasing because a) they don't sell content for use within the app and b) they sell "real world [physical] goods." Groupon also does not sell "content for use within the app" so these rules don't apply to them.

It's not really complicated at all. If you sell content for use within the app, you offer it through in-app purchasing. Everything else, you don't. Whether it's your app or the content you sell for it, you agree to split the revenue with Apple 70/30 when you sign up for the developer program. (You also agree to other things that they are addressing here, like not to steal users' data.) And a 70/30 split is actually quite a good deal for developers considering the alternatives.

It doesn't get much simpler than that. And the reason why in-app purchases of content are the same percentage as app purchases is that otherwise developers could simply offer shell apps for free and sell all the content at a lower percentage (or from their own web sites) to cheat the system. This way, not only is the percentage the same for everything, but all developers pay the same percentage. Not only is it simple, it's also fair.

There has been a lot of irrational and disingenuous noise on this topic. Some from people who don't understand the issue, some from astroturfers, and a bunch from people who are just looking for any excuse to bash Apple. But it's all just that, noise. A big deal has been made about Kindle, which is essentially a shell app without any content included when you download it for free. But let's consider a game app.

The basis for the app store is revenue sharing. Apple takes 30% of revenue and uses it to fund the App Store. A developer who includes all the functionality in the app you originally download pays a straight 30% of revenue on everything they earn. But, suppose a game developer releases an app for free that doesn't actually support any game play as is. Users are directed within the app to purchase individual games that are then downloaded and played. If that developer is allowed to completely bypass in-app purchasing, two things happen. First, they aren't paying their fair share toward supporting the marketplace that is distributing their software, essentially gaming the system to keep a larger share of the revenue they agreed to split with Apple. The other thing that happens is that their app effectively becomes a) a secondary App Store and b) a secondary shell within iOS. Neither of these things is desirable since both create an atmosphere of confusion with users and, again, allow that developer to avoid paying their fair share toward the support of the App Store, which is what makes distribution of their software on iOS possible in the first place.

Now a game app that's simply a shell isn't much different from the Kindle app. And, if Apple allows this model of app to proliferate, it undermines the entire structure of the App Store, and thus a very important part of the iOS user experience. Can you find examples of content where it seems like 30% is a high percentage? Yes. But, for the vast majority of apps selling, or potentially selling, content for use within the app, it's an entirely reasonable percentage. More importantly, it levels the playing field for all developers and prevents some developers (mostly larger developers) from sticking others (mostly smaller) with an unfair share in the cost burden of running the App Store, and it maintains the stability of the entire ecosystem.

In the end, all of these "changes" (which are really Apple just getting tough with cheaters of one sort or another and strictly enforcing the terms of the developer agreement) will make selling software through the App Store fairer for developers, and will create a better experience for users. The fear mongers, Apple haters, astroturfers and others will continue to make a lot of noise, predicting the doom of iOS, railing at how greedy and unreasonable Apple is, and spreading their message of gloom, but in the end these changes are good for iOS users, and good for iOS developers who aren't trying to cheat the system they are making money through.
post #12 of 15
deleted
post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacRulez View Post

They could do that with apps that are just front-ends to what could just as well be a web site.

Oh, wait, that would kill The Daily.

Have you actually used The Daily? It's slow and buggy, but out of all the news apps it is farthest from a website.
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

It's not really complicated at all. If you sell content for use within the app, you offer it through in-app purchasing. Everything else, you don't. Whether it's your app or the content you sell for it, you agree to split the revenue with Apple 70/30 when you sign up for the developer program. (You also agree to other things that they are addressing here, like not to steal users' data.) And a 70/30 split is actually quite a good deal for developers considering the alternatives.

It doesn't get much simpler than that. And the reason why in-app purchases of content are the same percentage as app purchases is that otherwise developers could simply offer shell apps for free and sell all the content at a lower percentage (or from their own web sites) to cheat the system. This way, not only is the percentage the same for everything, but all developers pay the same percentage. Not only is it simple, it's also fair.

Every once in a while Apple makes an incredibly bone-head move. To their credit, they usually realize it fairly quickly and change course. As reported in the press, this in-app fiasco is one of their biggest.

Whether it's fair, simple or neither isn't really relevant at the moment. I can't help feeling that something is being left out as it simply doesn't make sense. Requiring in-app offers at the same price as out-of-app with a 30% cut is simply undoable for many, if not most, markets. The in-app purchasing doesn't provide 30% decrease in costs or anywhere near that so it makes most sales economically infeasible. For app developers, the distribution savings really is worth 30%. For content sellers with alternate distribution channels, in-app processing savings isn't.

Perhaps this is about game in-app sales where the game is the distribution channel and it makes some sense. But the wording and the explanations given by Apple are so broad that it can't work as they seem to want to apply it. As presented, this kills any application that has a non-Apple distribution channel. Perhaps that is Apple's intent but I doubt it. I think someone tried to solve a problem where they should have used a hammer but used a nuclear bomb instead. Hopefully, it won't be long until Apple corrects.
post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by felipur View Post

Every once in a while Apple makes an incredibly bone-head move. To their credit, they usually realize it fairly quickly and change course. As reported in the press, this in-app fiasco is one of their biggest.

Whether it's fair, simple or neither isn't really relevant at the moment. I can't help feeling that something is being left out as it simply doesn't make sense. Requiring in-app offers at the same price as out-of-app with a 30% cut is simply undoable for many, if not most, markets. The in-app purchasing doesn't provide 30% decrease in costs or anywhere near that so it makes most sales economically infeasible. For app developers, the distribution savings really is worth 30%. For content sellers with alternate distribution channels, in-app processing savings isn't.

Perhaps this is about game in-app sales where the game is the distribution channel and it makes some sense. But the wording and the explanations given by Apple are so broad that it can't work as they seem to want to apply it. As presented, this kills any application that has a non-Apple distribution channel. Perhaps that is Apple's intent but I doubt it. I think someone tried to solve a problem where they should have used a hammer but used a nuclear bomb instead. Hopefully, it won't be long until Apple corrects.

Didn't you even read anonymouse's post above???? If someone sells a free app in Apples store, Apple gets 30% of nothing... now if that app is just a store within the app store selling products outside from within, Apple has every right to be PISSED. Just try to setup a product stand in the isle at Target or Walmart and see how fast you'd be booted out the door!!!
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