Apple's Walled Garden Getting A Bit Messy

February 20, 2012

Reading time ~2 minutes

Apple has a couple of weeds taking root in their walled garden recently.

The most recent being the Pokemon fiascos. There are a few "apps" in the App Store that are currently occupying alarmingly high rankings in the top app listings. One of these is "Pokemon Yellow". "Wow, Pokemon Yellow is in the App Store!" Hold it right there.

It's a scam, (you knew that, right?) According to the countless 1 Star reviews, the "game" simply opens, displays a picture of one of the newer Pokemon Nintendo DS games (not even Pokemon Yellow) and then promptly closes, leaving the poor sap who just paid 99c feeling a little more than dumb.

So what's the problem here? The fact that someone is ripping off Mega Giant Nintendo for a quick buck? The fact that the app doesn't work as advertised? That fact it's blatantly a scam? These are all big problems, but, for me, they aren't the problem. Sure people are losing out on their money - but individually it's only 99c, it probably costs more for a bag of Haribo. Collectively, though, that is a lot of money. The amount of downloads it takes to get that high in the rankings leads to serious money.

However, the real problem is how the hell did this manage to get approved in the first place?! This is precisely the type of thing Apple's review process is designed to prevent. Yet here we are, with hundreds (if not thousands) of people buying into false promises, having their money taken from them in dishonest ways. This is exactly what Apple tried to get rid of.

As a developer myself, I have had apps rejected in the past. Some of them have been silly reasons, some have been more sensible, but all of them have been in line with their Published Guidelines (requires developer login).

Examples include:

  • Having an app rejected because the table cell selection states were persistent, which contradicts the Human Interface Guidelines.
  • Having an app rejected for using a circular, blue 'plus' button as an 'invite friend button', when its intended use is for adding existing contacts. (Again, with the HIG).
  • Attempting to sell an in-app purchase that used the name "Premier League" in its title. I was told I needed written consent from the copyright holder in order to use its trademarks. Perfectly fair enough.

So how the hell did this Pokemon Yellow get past these insanely picky reviewers?

The app uses Nintendo trademarks, copyrights and imagery for starters. If it was enough for my "Premier League" IAP to be rejected, why isn't it enough for this one?

Not only that, the app doesn't work as advertised. Unless, it says "will immediately close after opening" in the description (which, I couldn't find at all, so maybe I'm missing it?). Again, this on its own should be enough for rejection.

Finally, the app, even if it did work, offers no substantial benefit or use whatsoever, yet another reason, which by itself should result in rejection.

What the hell Apple? This place is meant to be a haven from all this shit.

The only thing I can think of that would lead to this is an inside job. Maybe one of the reviewers wanted a quick buck and could successfully hide his true identity, like a real super villain. Where's Batman when you need him?

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