By Dan Moren
August 31, 2020 2:31 PM PT
The Back Page: Lesser-known rules of the App Store
Over its decade-plus history, Apple’s App Store has been known as a secure and reliable source of quality software1. But even as that has been the case, it has also remained a hotbed of controversy and contention, especially when it comes to the rules that govern the marketplace—and how those rules are applied. More recently, Apple has found itself in legal trouble as it battles game-maker Epic over whether the control exerted by Cupertino is simply too much.
What’s so contentious, you might wonder? Apple’s rules are, of course, clear, concise, well thought out, and applied equally to all developers.2 But have you ever really taken the time to read those rules line-by-line? Most people don’t, any more than they read the endless agreements that they quickly click through in order to get pizza delivered directly to their door.
So, allow me to shed some light on some of the more obscure rules buried deep within this lengthy document. Because the average user might be surprised at what developers must contend with when it comes to Apple’s guidelines for distributing software via the App Store.
1.7 Summoning Security
While not prohibited, apps that implement summoning of supernatural, paranormal, preternatural, or extraordinary beings are to enforce all necessary practices, including but not limited to devil’s traps, magic circles, iron bonds, lines of salt, holy oil, crumbled Ritz crackers, crisp crumb coatings, and ghost traps. These apps must also implement strict parental controls and, pursuant to rule 3.1.6, either offer Apple Pay or use Apple’s in-app purchase system for all transactions involving immortal souls and demonic contracts.
2.1.1 Game Completeness
All games submitted to App Review must be beatable and shall absolutely not include devilishly hard puzzles on which users may become stuck for days or perhaps weeks, resulting in detrimental effects to their lives and relationships, especially when they have tried every possible manipulation of their device in order to solve a puzzle, such that they lie awake at night staring at the ceiling and weeping softly, trying to figure out what combination of presses they have not yet tried and where their life went wrong.
2.4.6 Hardware Compatibility
Apps that are not compatible with older hardware, or require features specific to current hardware, are inadvisable. Please design your apps to support the most recent two generations of iPhone and iPad, Macs running the last two version of macOS, the third-generation Apple TV and later, Apple Watch Series 3 and onward, the fifth-generation iPod touch, the third-generation iPod shuffle, the Newton MessagePad, the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, the Lisa, and the Pippin.
3.1.3(a)(i) Additional “Reader” app restrictions
An app may not be considered a “reader” if it does not contain any text at all. They are called “reader” apps for a reason, and that reason absolutely has to do with reading and is not in any way an arbitrary distinction.
(x) Designing an app that forces people to dance against their better judgment.
4.1(a) Copycat Exemption
While making copycat apps is highly discouraged, exceptions may be granted for cases in which two developers came up with an idea simultaneously but one creator had the forethought to utter “Jinx!” The developer who did not say “jinx” shall not be permitted to distribute their app until they have awarded the developer who invoked the jinx a Coke.
4.6.1 Alternate App Icons
(i) May not contain any picture, photograph, or image of ducks. All icons with ducks will be immediately rejected. The ducks are aware of what they did.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]