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Apple's new App Store guidelines get tough on cheating developers

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."