Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Rejected From the App Store for Emoji in Screenshot

Ryan Nystrom:

Apple now rejecting an expedited @githawk review for using EMOJI in screenshots?

The fact that on an expedite-approved build to fix a huge crash, of all things THIS gets flagged.

Not to mention the fact that the crash even happened means the previous review DIDN’T EVEN OPEN THE APP.

Eli Perkins:

Time to pull Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Venmo too then, I guess!

Ryan Nystrom:

Don’t forget Slack

Michael Love:

Seeing a bunch of these lately - feels like somebody at Apple Legal got a bug up their bottom about emoji trademarkability and wrote a memo and @pschiller et al have not seen fit to countermand it yet.

I can grok the business / legal arguments for emoji-as-trademarks - distinct ‘style’ they’ve developed + don’t want other OEMs to rip off - but you can’t ban developers from using a built-in system font in screenshots.

Update (2018-02-05): Sam Eckert (via Jeff Johnson):

I’ve just been on the phone with the App Review team regarding the Emoji issue.

Apps are NO LONGER ALLOWED TO USE EMOJI in non-keyboard based situations. Means if your app displays emoji anywhere without a user having it typed in, it’s illegal and will be rejected.

Sam Eckert:

Meanwhile Instagram & Yubo just pushed their latest update with this and it apparently was no problem.

Andrew Briscoe:

Apple demonstrates using emoji in apps in their App Development with Swift courses.

Benjamin Mayo:

As always with App Store stories like this, the App Review team has shown itself to be inconsistent in interpretation and enforcement. However, Eckert’s tweet is not the only account we have heard with a similar story on this new anti-emoji policy.

Apple has not added an explicit mention of allowed emoji usage to its public App Review Guidelines yet.

Update (2018-02-06): Jeremy Burge:

Other apps such as Signal and Telegram continue to use Apple emojis on Android.


Now app developers are getting word that the use of emoji in iOS apps may be stepping over the line too.


This is not the first time this has happened. Eddie Lee, developer of app Reaction Match, reported a similar incident dating back to December 2017. This stemmed from a screen which used the 😭 Loudly Crying Face emoji as the heading for a Game Center error, and three 👾👾👾 aliens on the same screen.


GitHawk, a Github client, was also rejected for emoji use within the app in January 2017. These emojis were primarily used in the context of emoji reactions. First created by Slack in 2015, these are now a common feature across all kinds of communication environments.


To help navigate what appears to be going on here, we have compiled a guide for what is and isn't allowed by Apple when using their emojis. This has been created based on feedback from numerous developers over multiple days.

Tim Schmitz:

I can see disallowing emoji as part of branding, but why prohibit them as a button or inline with text? This feels like Apple disallowing the use of system fonts and requiring you to install a custom one instead

Update (2018-02-09): Mitchel Broussard:

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.

Casey Newton (tweet, via David Barnard):

Apple has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

WhatsApp and Slack are among the major developers that have changed their emoji in recent weeks in response to pressure, as Emojipedia noted this week. Ryan Nystrom, an engineer at Instagram who is working on a GitHub notification app, tweeted a rejection from Apple indicating that he had violated App Store rule 5.2.5: “Apps and extensions, including third party keyboards and Sticker packs, may not include Apple emoji.” (Nystrom’s tweet was first noticed by Mashable.)


Whatever the case, developers are on edge. Over the past day, three app makers have told me that the uncertainty around emoji use has roiled their teams. Depending on how widely emoji are used in an app, a change in enforcement could require an extensive — and expensive — redesign.

Update (2018-02-13): See also: Accidental Tech Podcast, Connected.

6 Comments RSS · Twitter

Stefan Tractorface

App Store review not even opening an app is new policy? App crashing at launch got accepted for @kapeli too: https://twitter.com/kapeli/status/951427632297660417

Michael Love: "can’t ban developers from using a built-in system font in screenshots."

Apple Legal: "Oh yeah? Hold my Fiji Water."

We've had similar things happen (rejections on dubious/random grounds during an expedited app store review). After appealing the review and explaining that it was expedited, Apple quickly reversed its decision and seemed super reasonable about the whole thing. Only set us back 10-15min. Might be worth a try...

[…] wish App Review acted more like a quality barrier and less like it was actively seeking incredibly stupid reasons to reject […]

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