Apple re-enables promo codes for 17+ apps

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At least one probably-unintended consequence of Apple’s recently imposed rating system for iPhone apps has been undone. An iPhone developer has confirmed to Macworld that developers are now once again able to request promo codes for apps with a 17+ rating, as first reported by The Unofficial Apple Weblog.

As you may recall, promo codes were among the casualties of the 17+ rating imposed on some apps. Such a rating allows parents to restrict access to apps on their kids’ iPhones—certainly not a big deal, except for the fact that a pretty wide net has been cast for which apps fall under the 17+ heading.

Under the new rule, all applications that include a built-in Web browser (including many Twitter and RSS clients) or offer unfiltered access to the Internet in the form of a text chat had to rate themselves as being unsuitable for minors. So, basically, an app that allowed you to save pages from the Internet for offline reading was rated the same as one that showed pictures of bikini-clad women.

Furthermore, developers of such apps could no longer issue free promo codes to send to reviewers, beta testers, and the like. If that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, it is to app makers, who count on reviews and word of mouth to stand out in the increasingly crowded App Store. Restrictions on handing out promo codes to reviewers likely reduced the chances of the 17+ app getting reviewed.

But that restriction has now, thankfully, gone away. It’s encouraging to hear of Apple make amends to its App Store infrastructure based on feedback—it gives the impression that the company listens to developers. That said, organizational problems remain that only Apple can fix. Here’s hoping that the company follows through on some of the comments executives made during last week’s earnings announcement and figures out a way to improve upon the submission and approval process that remains one of the App Store’s most notable flaws.

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