Developers Report Recent Enforcement of Stricter Rules for Emoji Use in iOS Apps

Over the past few weeks, iOS app developers have been sharing stories on Twitter about their apps getting rejected by Apple's App Review team because emojis were used in "non-keyboard based situations." So if an app displayed an emoji in its user interface, where the user did not type it in with a keyboard, Apple said it was not complying with its trademark and Apple Emoji imagery guidelines.

As accounts of similar situations begin to build, Emojipedia this week reported on the topic, and attempted to make sense of the new rules, with a handful of examples of apps that have been using emoji within their UI and are now being rejected by Apple. In the iOS app "Reaction Match," a Game Center error screen saw the use of the loudly crying face and alien emojis become problems for developer Eddie Lee. He eventually removed all instances of the emojis, and the App Store reviewers then accepted the app.

Image of Reaction Match's rejected (left) and approved (right) app screens via Emojipedia

Github client app GitHawk faced similar issues, with Apple rejecting the app for its use of emojis as "media" in various parts of the app. As developer and software engineer Ryan Nystrom explained, these instances of "non text input" emoji use got flagged, but once he removed the emojis and used them only as "content" and as text input examples, the app was approved.

Like other newly discovered App Store guidelines, there is some inconsistency in Apple's processes and the exact rules remain unclear. For example, a few major apps apparently violate the new emoji-as-text-only rule -- like Snapchat's emoji friend scores -- but appear to not have had issues in recent updates. Other areas of uncertainty include emojis in push notifications and in responses from chatbot apps.

As Emojipedia pointed out, this could affect smaller developers the most and cause their user interfaces to become less personalized.
Smaller developers will be hardest hit as Apple's professionally designed emojis were a quick and easy way to provide imagery in an app that fit in with the system. They will now need to create their own icons to fill the gap, embed a licensed emoji set, or have a naked-looking UI.

Larger developers have the budget to create their own emoji or icon sets, or to license existing ones. The largest or most popular apps may see Apple overlooking breaches of this new policy.
Apple is known to consistently introduce tweaks and updates to its App Store Review Guidelines, occasionally amending harsher rules that create unexpected problems for some apps. For example, last June Apple introduced new guidelines that banned apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service in an effort to fight clones and spam on the App Store. Eventually, the rule negatively affected small businesses who rely on such templates, and Apple amended its guidelines to be less restrictive.

Outside of the traditional emoji characters, Apple launched a new set of advanced emojis with Animoji on the iPhone X. The new feature creates 3D models of existing emojis and tracks their animations to the user's facial features using the iPhone X's TrueDepth front-facing camera, which resulted in the phenomenon of "Animoji Karaoke" videos that Apple itself eventually got in on.

Related Roundup: iOS 11

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Apple Updates App Store Guidelines to Relax Restrictive Rules on Template Apps

Apple in June tweaked its App Store Review guidelines to add a new rule banning apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service, a move that ended up impacting small businesses without the resources to independently develop an app.

Many niche template-created apps for small restaurants, retailers, and other businesses were not allowed under the new rule, which also affected the companies that build those sorts of apps. Following media attention and feedback from small business owners, Apple today amended the rule to make it less restrictive, reports TechCrunch.

An example of a restaurant app created using a ChowNow template

The original rule, in section 4.2.6 of the App Store guidelines, read "Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected." The new wording of the rule, located below, is more expansive and clarifies exactly what's allowed and what's not.
Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected unless they are submitted directly by the provider of the app's content. These services should not submit apps on behalf of their clients and should offer tools that let their clients create customized, innovative apps that provide unique customer experiences. Another acceptable option for template providers is to create a single binary to host all client content in an aggregated or "picker" model, for example as a restaurant finder app with separate customized entries or pages for each client restaurant, or as an event app with separate entries for each client event.
Under the revised guidelines, small businesses that use template-style apps can continue to use them, but those apps must be submitted by the business itself rather than the template provider. Apple also suggests template providers can create something like a restaurant finder app, with the ability to search for all client restaurants rather than creating individual cookie cutter apps for each restaurant.

All apps published on the App Store going forward will need to be handled by the business or organization behind the app, and to make the transition simple, Apple is going to waive its $99 developer fee for government and nonprofit apps in the U.S. in early 2018.

In addition to changing its template app guidelines, Apple today tweaked a few other rules. Apps that offer in-app purchase "loot boxes" or other mechanisms that include randomized virtual items are now required to disclose the odds of receiving each type of item.

Apple has also clarified that virtual currency apps offering Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), cryptocurrency futures trading, and other crypto-securities or quasi-securities trading must come from established banks, securities firms, futures commission merchants, or other approved financial institutions.

One last rule applies to VPN apps. Apps that offer VPN services are required to use the NEVPNManager API and must make it clear what user data is collected and how it is used. VPN apps must also follow local laws, and VPN apps in a territory where a VPN license is required must provide license information in the App Review Notes field when submitting an app.

Apple's full App Store review guidelines are available on its developer website.

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Apple Removed Some Risky Trading Apps From App Store in Accordance With New Guidelines

Apple and Google have recently removed over 300 binary options trading apps from the App Store and Google Play store respectively, according to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

A spokesperson for Apple said it removed the apps globally in accordance with its recently updated App Store Review Guidelines:
Apps that facilitate binary options trading are not permitted on the App Store. Consider a web app instead.
MacRumors easily discovered at least five apps that still appear to facilitate binary options trading on the App Store. Apple's guidelines clearly state that binary options trading apps are no longer permitted on the App Store, so it's unclear why some remain available to download, and whether they'll soon be removed.

The trading apps encouraged users to make bets on whether instruments like shares or currencies will rise or fall, according to Bloomberg. However, many of them were unlicensed and failed to outline the risks of trading binary options, and some merely collected personal information, according to ASIC.

Many of the trading apps subject to surveillance by ASIC contained statements which appeared to be misleading about the profitability of trading and the amount of profit that could be made, the regulator said. One of the apps, for example, advertised that users could profit in as quickly as 60 seconds.

"In an age where technology can hide who is offering and controlling a product, buyer beware has never been so important," said ASIC commissioner Cathie Armour. "If something appears too good to be true, it probably is."

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Apple Officially Allows Users to Tip Content Creators With In-App Purchases

Apple updated its App Store Review Guidelines this week to indicate that developers may now sell virtual currencies in the form of in-app purchases to enable customers to "tip" content creators within apps.

Like all other in-app purchases, Apple will now receive a 30 percent cut from the virtual currencies used for tipping.

Tipping within apps is popular in China, where live-streaming apps like Yinke and Yizhibo have long allowed viewers to tip or give virtual gifts to the stars they watch as a token of gratitude, according to TechCrunch.

Last month, however, Apple reportedly told WeChat and several other Chinese social networking apps to disable their "tip" functions to comply with App Store rules, as many of the virtual currencies sidestepped Apple's 30 percent cut on purchases.

Now that Apple has formally outlined its stance on the matter, developers who previously feared repercussions from the company may be more inclined to begin offering virtual currencies for users to tip content creators with.

Beyond Apple's 30 percent cut, it's up to developers to determine how much of the tips are relayed to the content creators themselves.

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