There’s no App Store 'emoji apocalypse,' just inconsistent policy enforcement

Sarah Perez
A number of iOS app developers have been mystified by a new wave of app rejections related to their use of Apple's emojis.

A number of iOS app developers have been mystified by a new wave of app rejections related to their use of Apple's emojis. They've suspected that a new App Store crackdown is underway. However, the company hasn't changed its policy on Apple emoji usage in apps, nor its enforcement, according to sources familiar with the App Store review team's processes. The policy does seem to be inconsistently enforced at times, though.

That's led to previously approved apps receiving rejections, while other apps in breach of policy have been let in.

Specifically, Apple told some developers who used its emoji in their apps that they were in violation of the 5.2.5 "Intellectual Property" guideline.

For example, one rejection notice read:

"Your app and app’s metadata include Apple emoji which creates a misleading association with Apple products."

The site Emojipedia, which covers the broader emoji ecosystem, recently detailed some of the newer examples of apps facing rejections, including Github client GitHawk, bitcoin wallet tracker Bittracker,matching game Reaction Match, emoji-based game Moji Match, and others.

As Emojipedia had determined, we've confirmed that Apple will only allow apps using emojis in specific contexts, like in a text field.

Meanwhile, any other usage should be banned by App Review, including when emoji are used as elements in a game, as replacements for buttons or other parts of the app's user interface, as sticker packs, in app logos or icons, or in promotional images, also as Emojipedia had also suspected, based on the pattern of rejections.

While emojis exist as part of the Unicode standard, Apple's implementation of that standard is copyrighted. That means the company is within its legal right to control the usage of their own emoji designs, especially in their own App Store.

However, Emojipedia founder Jeremy Burge takes issue with the fact that Apple should have such a policy around its emoji at all.

"It seems reasonable to me that Apple would want some level of control over emoji use in the App Store, but banning it outright from anything other user-inputted text feels a step too far in my opinion," he says.

That said, Apple's decision to reject apps based on their use of Apple emoji is not a new occurrence. If you go back far enough on Twitter, you'll findmany examples of developerscomplaining about the same thing over the past couple of years.









Adding to the more recent confusion, as Emojipedia also pointed out in its reporting, was the fact that Apple's own app development course on coding using Swift offers an example of an app with emojis that seems to breach its policy.


The real issue here is that the App Review team has not consistently enforced the policies around Apple emoji use. In addition, Apple it doesn't speak up to clear the air when it's aware developers are confused.

That leads to a situation where developers will just try to sneak their app through, even though it seems to be in violation of a guidelines. (That sometimes works, too.)

But in the end, it wastes developers' time because they later may get caught by App Review. They then have to go back and overhaul their app to address the problem at a much later stage of development.

Apple declined to comment about the emoji-related rejections.

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