We are receiving a lot of questions from our customers asking where the latest update to iBird is, the one that we have worked on for the last four months. We submitted all 9 versions of iBird 1.7.0 to Apple on July 24, 2008. This new version contained a LOT of new features including the most requested one, Notes. Notes gives you a notepad on every species page where you can stamp the date and time, then write any sighting or observation comments about the species. Every species page has its own note. The notes are free form and you can organize them anyway you want. A button can be tapped to send them to any email address for backup. In addition we created hundreds of pages of new information on all the bird families, new birds, some fixes etc.
On July 28th I received an email from Apple saying:
Thank you for submitting your family of iBird Explorer applications to the App Store. We've reviewed the iBird Explorers and determined that we cannot post these versions of your iPhone applications to the App Store at this time because they are not appropriately rated. Our reviews indicate that the application contents are not consistent with the current ratings. The iBird Explorer applications allow unfiltered access to the internet, where content with mature or suggestive themes can be accessed. Applications must be rated accordingly for the highest level of content that the user is able to access.
Please visit iTunes Connect to resubmit your binaries and rate your applications appropriately.
iPhone Developer Program
This email was accompanied by a screen shot of the app species page showing the Wikipedia home page, like this:
I understood Apple had a new rule that required apps which allowed unfiltered access to the internet though an app to be rated as containing "mature content". And because Birdipedia did not open Safari in the browser but rather opened Wikipedia though the webkit in the app, it would defeat the parental controls on Safari. Now while I did not really understand how all the wiki apps in the app store could get away with the same thing and be rated 4+ (the lowest rating for users and the safest), I thought perhaps that the app store reviewers had not got around to updating them yet, and that iBird was not be singled out.
So I investigated rating iBird as a "mature" app and discovered there were no guidelines about how to select from the multiple mature rating filters. Do I pick mature photos, violence, foul language? So I needed some guidance. I also discovered I could not just go in and modify my submission, I had to start from scratch and re-upload every single iBird app, fill out all the forms again, and select a rating. So I wrote to the Apple dev team and asked what I should do, and they basically told me:
Thank you for your email. Please know that ratings are only editable before binary submission. Once a binary has been uploaded for review, the rating is locked. Please be sure to correctly answer the rating questions, and then upload your binary for review. If you have questions on ratings, please refer to Page 91 in the iTunes Connect Developer Guide. The iTunes Connect Developer Guide can be found inside the Manage Your Applications module in iTunes Connect.
Also, as previously noted, your application must be rated according to the highest level of content that the user is able to access. It would be appropriate to increase the rating of your application or to limit the content that can be accessed.
We hope this helps answer your questions.
iPhone Developer Program
The key here was "Also, as previously noted, your application must be rated according to the highest level of content that the user is able to access. It would be appropriate to increase the rating of your application or to limit the content that can be accessed."
I could not see rating iBird as a mature app, because there are so many children that love birds and this would make parents think it was as bad influence.
So I looked at how could I limit Birdipedia so that it did not allow the user to get to the Wikipedia home page and search box. That way the customer would never be able to enter any kind of search term and would be restricted to bird pages.
We figured out how to trap the link to the wiki home page so it no longer would work, and a user would never get the screen that Apple showed me. I asked them in an email if that would be sufficient and they sent me this boiler plate answer:
We've received your application inquiry. Each app submitted to Apple has different capabilities, features, and complexity, which means that individual review times vary. Once the application review process has been completed, you will receive an email notification.
Note: If you self-reject a binary and upload a new one, the application review process is reset and starts from the beginning. Therefore, we strongly recommend that any quality assurance testing is performed prior to submitting the app.
While we cannot respond to every app submission inquiry, if we encounter any issues or need additional information you will be contacted.
Since that really didn't answer my question I just decided to go ahead and upload the 9 apps again with this fix. That was on August 3, 2008. Its now Aug 28 and I have not heard a thing from Apple.
Given how Apple featured iBird in the television commercial "we have an app for that too" and people actually buy iPhones and Touches just to get iBird running (we get at least 10 emails a day about how do I buy an iPod Touch), and given the great income from the app (its a $30 app that was at the top of the Reference category for 6 months) you would think Apple would be highly motivated to get iBird into the store.
Yet 25 days have gone by, over a month really since the first submission, and I am caught in the zone of silence. In the past iBird has been reviewed in 3 to 5 days!
If anyone has suggestions on what I can do to get iBird acceptable I would really appreciate your thoughts. One possibility is to force the Birdipedia button to exit the app and open Safari. That way if the parental controls have Safari disabled the result will be a blank page. Of course if I do this it starts the entire review process from scratch.