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Apple Cracks Down on Share-Baiting iOS Apps

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If it wasn't tough already to get on the App Store shelf, Apple is further scrutinizing whether apps trade rewards for shares and video views.

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For Android (NASDAQ:GOOG) users, there's no shortage of outlets to get an app fix. But for owners of an iOS (NASDAQ:AAPL) device who are also hesitant to jailbreak, their software selection is relegated to the well-guarded walled garden of the iTunes App Store. And for developers to usher their creations through the gate, they have to meet quite a few guidelines and restrictions.
 
And now, it appears that coders have even more parameters to follow.
 
According to a recent article on TechCrunch, Apple is cracking down on apps that incentivize video viewing and social sharing with in-app rewards. Used by many apps and games, the practice often involves trading lives, items, or lengthier gameplay for users who share the app on social media -- anyone who has a Facebook (NYSE:FB) friend who's also a Candy Crush addict is probably familiar with it already. But alongside the share-baiting, apps that promote other apps with ads or offer in-game rewards for watching competitors' video ads are also likely to feel the might of Apple's banhammer.
 
Specifically, the new rules stated in rejection notices from Apple's review team are stated thusly:
 
2.25: Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected, unless designed for a specific approved need (e.g. health management, aviation, accessibility, etc.) or to provide significant added value for a targeted group of customers.
 
3.10: Developers who attempt to manipulate or cheat the user reviews or chart ranking in the App Store with fake or paid reviews, or any other inappropriate methods will be removed from the iOS Developer Program.
 
This new, sweeping measure will affect many high-profile development teams. Besides King (NYSE:KING) -- the team behind the aforementioned Candy Crush -- companies like AdColony, Applifier (Unity), Flurry, TapJoy, SupersonicAds, Vungle, AppLovin, Sponsorpay, or any other which offer similar promotional incentives will have to follow the new guidelines.
 
And it won't just apply to future submissions.
 
One developer learned this the hard way after following up with Apple's app rejection email. Apparently, the new rules will be applied retroactively. As Apple wrote in its reply:
 
On occasion, there may be apps on the App Store that don't appear to be in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines. We work hard to ensure that the apps on the App Store are in compliance and we try to identify any apps currently on the App Store that may not be. It takes time to identify these occurrences but another app being out of compliance is not a reason for your app to be.
 
Going forward, it is appropriate to remove any form of incentivized rating, or ad viewing, etc.
 
So, that answers that.
 
But for Apple, as TechCrunch notes, the problem isn't so much the identification of offending apps but rather the sheer number of App Store entries that are now non-compliant. To remove them all, well, that would leave quite a few submissions off the App Store. And when the company has already lost ground to Android's burgeoning Play Store, it needs to focus on expansion, not restriction.
 
However, for programmers, it's an even tougher story.
 
Anyone who develops for iOS is now forced to concoct new promotional and marketing tactics that comply with Apple's increasingly stringent rules and face the fact that, going forward, it'll be even harder to become the next Candy Crush without the effective tools it used to become so popular and profitable.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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