Apple threatens to pull No. 1 iMessage sticker pack 'Phoneys' for violating App Store regulations

Posted:
in iPhone
Apple on Friday issued an ultimatum to Adam Howell, developer of sticker pack "Phoneys," saying he must fundamentally change the content of his top-selling iMessage App Store title or face removal.









Detailing the chain of events that led up to today's warning, Howell in a Medium post said Apple contacted him shortly after "Phoneys" skyrocketed to become the top paid and top grossing offering in the iMessage App Store.



A clever idea, "Phoneys" contains a set of stickers designed to mimic Apple's trademark blue text bubbles, the same graphic that shows up as a sent message in Messages. Each bubble contains a flattering or self-deprecating phrase and can be placed over a friend's -- or enemy's -- message in a conversation. As Howell puts it, "Phoneys" lets users "literally put words in other people's texts."



The sticker pack comes with 28 phrases, including "You're so smart," "My political views are totally wrong," "Your sports team is better than my sports team" and fan favorite "Oops I just pooped myself."



Apple approved the app last Friday.



Launched on Monday, "Phoneys" gained notoriety a couple days later when Mike Rundle mentioned it on Twitter. The app was featured in a Wednesday TechCrunch post, which was subsequently re-blogged by John Gruber.



Howell's sticker pack is obviously designed to let iMessage users have a bit of fun with their compatriots, but Apple's lawyers -- unsurprisingly -- think different. To Apple, "Phoneys" is a "prank" app, something not acceptable for sale on the App Store.



The company gave Howell one week to rectify the situation. Stickers can no longer be green or blue, must not use the San Francisco typeface and is not to be marketed as a "prank" app. The text bubbles also need to be redesigned to resemble something along the lines of "comic book cartoon bubbles."



If Howell does not comply by next Thursday, "Phoneys" will be yanked from the iMessage App Store, ending the project and any potential future income. On the other hand, the developer can bend to Apple's demands and change the app, though users who already paid a dollar for the humorous text bubbles might view the move as a bait-and-switch.



There is one alternative Howell failed to mention. He could, theoretically, not comply and stick with his original idea -- arguably what people are paying for -- continuing sales until the Thursday deadline. Following removal, Howell could then relaunch the app with Apple's suggested modifications under a different name. Though it would mean losing an enviable spot in App Store rankings, the decision would keep happy those customers who pushed it to No. 1 in the first place.



Phoneys is available to purchase from the iMessage App Store for $0.99.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    If he refuses to pull it, suspend his account permanently. 
    tallest skilpscooter63SpamSandwich
  • Reply 2 of 17
    roakeroake Posts: 620member
    As far as I can tell, it doesn't work.  Maybe he already updated it.  The balloons show up on the same side as the senders text.
  • Reply 3 of 17
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,751member
    How did this get approved in the first place?
    Habi_tweet
  • Reply 4 of 17
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    How did this get approved in the first place?
    Machines, not humans. A program can’t parse prank.
  • Reply 5 of 17
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,643member
    roake said:
    As far as I can tell, it doesn't work.  Maybe he already updated it.  The balloons show up on the same side as the senders text.
    It works fine, but you have to put the fake bubble over an incoming text; you're just stamping an image sticker over the text.  It'll appear weird on on your side because you'll have a blue bubble left aligned, but it'll appear correctly on the receiving end.  Lots of low star reviews on the App Store because people don't understand how it works.

    I think it's quite a good prank app, and while you can only use canned responses I don't think there's a big enough case for malicious use to justify removing it.  

    Perhaps if there was some way for a user to expose that a sticker had been applied (maybe when you enter sticker mode all existing stickers in the convo could get highlighted?), or show text only, then the malicious use case could be satisfied.
    edited October 2016 pscooter63jony0
  • Reply 6 of 17
    clexmanclexman Posts: 147member
    The App Store reviews are hilarious. Half are using it wrong or don't get it. The rest think its a great prank.

    Apple should lighten up. One of the points of the stickers is to add a little silliness to imessage.
    pulseimagesbaconstangjbdragonlightknightjony0
  • Reply 7 of 17
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    roake said:
    As far as I can tell, it doesn't work.  Maybe he already updated it.  The balloons show up on the same side as the senders text.
    for you. not for the recipient. 
  • Reply 8 of 17
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    ooooh "apple threatens" and issues "ultimatum" -- nice nasty headline and spin, AI. 
    pscooter63
  • Reply 9 of 17
    evilutionevilution Posts: 1,342member
    How did this get approved in the first place?
    Because...who is it hurting?
    baconstang
  • Reply 10 of 17
    This prank-app could obviously be used in fraudulent schemes and by people intent on causing personal problems for others. Some people use their iPhones exclusively for fun, but Apple targets clients unwilling to have their incomes, business dealings and relationships infected with pranksters and criminals. Once iMessage has a reputation of unreliability, serious users will migrate to competing message services.
    nolamacguythewhitefalconmacguilonestar1
  • Reply 11 of 17
    Apple could simply pull the plug and stop the app from working on every iPhone. 
  • Reply 12 of 17
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    ooooh "apple threatens" and issues "ultimatum" -- nice nasty headline and spin, AI. 

    Apple holds developer

    ’s potential future income

    hostage with a

    proverbial

    gun to its head

    lightknight
  • Reply 13 of 17
    roakeroake Posts: 620member
    roake said:
    As far as I can tell, it doesn't work.  Maybe he already updated it.  The balloons show up on the same side as the senders text.
    for you. not for the recipient. 
    I can see that now.  Thanks.  I was doing it wrong.
  • Reply 14 of 17
    lightknightlightknight Posts: 2,312member
    If he refuses to pull it, suspend his account permanently. 
    Or just follow the Store rules, stop sales and let him push a new, different version, while letting users who paid for the App enjoy it the way it is?

    Why so quick to wish evil unto others?
  • Reply 15 of 17
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 747member
    28 phrases for $.99 is a bad value and shows a lack of imagination.  personnally Apple should take it down.  and agree it should not have been approved.
  • Reply 16 of 17
    lolliverlolliver Posts: 311member
    badmonk said:
    28 phrases for $.99 is a bad value and shows a lack of imagination.  personnally Apple should take it down.  and agree it should not have been approved.

    I agree that Apple should remove this app but not sure about the lack of imagination part. I think it was a creative idea to use stickers in this manner. Sure 28 phrases isn't a lot but I suspect the developer had doubts about their chances of this app being approved. Plus it's funny the first time you use it on someone but once they learn what's going on there's no point continuing the prank. It just get's more and more annoying.


    I can't see the developer making any changes to the app. I think it's served it's purpose and they were lucky enough to make some money out of a simple idea.
  • Reply 17 of 17
    lolliver said:

    Plus it's funny the first time you use it on someone but once they learn what's going on there's no point continuing the prank. It just get's more and more annoying. 

    Won't stop people. That describes half the stuff on the Internet. 
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