Apple disallows promo codes for iPhone apps with 17+ rating

Promo codes are a great way for iPhone developers freely distribute their app, generate buzz, and get their app reviewed by some of the bigger iPhone app review websites. With over 65,000 apps currently in the iTunes App Store, getting an iPhone app to stand out among the crowd is increasingly becoming a challenging proposition.

Promo codes are a great way for iPhone developers freely distribute their app, generate buzz, and get their app reviewed by some of the bigger iPhone app review websites. With over 65,000 apps currently in the iTunes App Store, getting an iPhone app to stand out among the crowd is increasingly becoming a challenging proposition. Often times, a positive review from a well-respected website can be the difference between quickly climbing up the charts and remaining in relative obscurity. As it stands now, developers are given approximately 50 promo codes to freely hand out to whomever they choose.

Last week, however, there was a considerable backlash at Apple (what else is new?) for disallowing the use of promo codes on apps that have a 17+ rating. The reason why Apple has prohibited the use of promo codes for these apps is because the promo codes themselves don't come with a warning regarding the 17+ content contained within the app. Presumably, Apple wants to prevent a scenario where an unassuming recipient of a promo code downloads an app, and is eventually shocked and caught completely off guard at the underlying content.

While this is certainly understandable from Apple's perspective, the issue isn't that black and white. As it turns out, the 17+ rating isn't only used for adult oriented iPhone apps. Rather, it's also used quite heavily for all apps that access third party content and/or use an embedded web browser. That means that apps whose functionality depends on accessing online services such as Twitter and Facebook are now unable to give away promo codes for their applications.  It goes without saying that this is a big issue for developers.

Developers are the lifeblood of the iTunes App Store, and its curious that Apple would make such a blanket rule that happens to affect way more developers than is indeed necessary. iPhone developers are understandably angry at Apple's latest move, and hopefully it's not too long before Apple comes up with a solution to the problem.

The iTunes App Store is currently the only game in town, but that doesn't mean that Apple can take what they have for granted. Apple, like any other company, is prone to making mistakes, but the real test is what Apple does to correct its past errors in judgment. Normally I might be inclined to say that developers should cut Apple some slack because managing a huge database of mobile software that seems to be growing exponentially is no easy task - but Apple is notoriously slow to respond to developer gripes, and sadly, it often seems that the only way to truly get Apple's attention is to make a public fuss about whatever issue happens to be in play at the moment.

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