Jared E. Bendis

Apple rejected my latest app!

I just got off the phone with Apple – they told me they were not going to approve my latest app.

This isn’t the first that Apple has rejected an app – they once rejected a gag iPad app – they said it didn’t have enough function, which was probably true, so I let it go.  They also didn’t like the functionality of one of my iPhone apps but after a quick explanation they changed their mind.

However this one doesn’t make any sense.  They rejected Mandalas Gallery Edition.

My kaleidoscopic painting program Mandalas has been very popular.  It has been so popular that I now give away a free version – Mandalas FREE – that has the same functionality but also has ads.

I have been taking iPads and the app to art exhibitions and galleries as part of a work called “The Mandalas Project”.


“The Mandalas Project” is a collection of images made by the Mandalas app by users at these galleries and exhibitions.  The Mandalas app has been part of 7 exhibitions to date (most by invitation) and has even won an award at a juried show.  For these installations I have created a modified version of the app called Mandalas Gallery, which has a custom user interface.  In this version the screen has instructions on it at all times, resets after every save, and resets if nothing is pressed for some time, it also has no ads.  I used my experience from working at various art festivals (and my time working at the Cleveland Museum of Art) to craft an exhibition friendly interactive.

So I took this app – wrote a very clear description of what it does and whom it is for (and also telling people to try the free one first) and set the price at tier 80 – or $499.  This actually is a discount from what I would normally charge (plus Apple takes their 1/3).  My business partner questioned if Apple would have a problem with such a high price – but as I reminded him – they are the ones who set the tier levels – they make a tier 80 (hell they even make a tier 99) so they must expect a situation where someone might use it.  We aren’t being wishful here either – the project is a reality – it has lived in galleries and we have been paid to do it.

I posted it and waited.  I knew something was wrong when they emailed me and said there would be a delay in the review.  And then they called me.  I was surprised. Last time it was all done via email.  The guy on the phone was very nice but he said that I had rated the program at ages 4+.  I explained that I just filled out the form and since it wasn’t dirty, violent, or scary it automatically rated at 4+.  He said that since the price was so high I needed to get it rated at 17+ so that no one purchased it by mistake.  This is fair – I am not looking for ‘sucker sales’ I just want to be able to sell it to galleries without having to setup their iPads myself.

He instructed me to re-submit the app with the 17+ rating – to get it to 17+ he told me to hit the scary, adult, violence buttons and that they would know why I was rating it so high.  I did this and also put in the review notes why I was doing it.  I do think it is weird that there isn’t a button just called 17+ where a developer can choose to make it 17+ without using those presets.  So I posted it and waited again.

I was surprised when after a few days I again got an alert that said that there would be a delay in the review.  I missed the first phone call from Apple and when I returned it they said they could have someone call me back – they could not transfer me.  When the guy did call me back he said that the app was too expensive.  I started to explain to him about things and also that I spoke to someone previously on this.  He told me he was the one who I spoke to and that they felt my app wasn’t worth that much money.  (He never told me why he didn’t tell me this the last time – I assume their process is very rigid and very linear.) So I explained it all over again about the galleries and the modifications and such.  He asked why I didn’t just use the business to business distribution model instead.  I told him that if I was trying to push this to galleries that I wouldn’t mind it but that with galleries viewing iPad apps as legitimate forms of art that being able to post it to the app store for people to see and find should be perfectly valid.  He said they he couldn’t help me because they ‘didn’t feel it was worth that much money’.  So I asked him how much they DID feel it was worth. He told me he couldn’t say – just that it wasn’t worth THAT much.  Now this is silly – they allow for the high prices – I can prove that I have sold the app for MORE than this – it as been IN galleries – all he can tell me is to try again until he feels that the price is right but can’t tell me how they come to their valuation?

Then he asks why it is even a separate app and suggests that I make it an in-app purchase.  Now this is a ridiculous suggestion.  I definitely don’t want the average person sitting there seeing a buy-it-now button for a $499 upgrade that they won’t want – that is just bad business.  It also isn’t the model!

He did tell me I can contest this and I will be taking to the appeals board.  I do want to say that he was very nice – but the situation is unacceptable.

What do you think?