The fact that they included parental controls for games in the 3.0 beta sort of hinted at this, but along with the iPhone 3.0 update today came app ratings, which appear rather inconspicuously under the app’s price and buy button on the detailed info screen. It also appears next to an app’s name in the list view of the iTunes store browser.
Interestingly, all apps appear to be getting a rating, as I checked out even one so innocuous as HP’s MediaSmart Server iStream app and found that it was “not yet rated.” It may be that all harmless utilities will receive this nondescript side-stepping of a rating going forward.
Games, though, and apps like Exterminator – Shooter Sounds Massacre! (9+), definitely have been rated using Apple’s own internal standards. The ratings are are as follows, taken directly from iTunes:
4+: Applications in this category contain no objectionable materials.
9+: Applications in this category may contain mild or infrequent occurrences of cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence, and infrequent or mild mature, suggestive, or horror-themed content which may not be suitable for children under the age of 9.
12+: Applications in this category may also contain infrequent mild language, frequent or intense cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence, and mild or infrequent mature or suggestive themes, and simulated gambling which may not be suitable for children under the age of 12.
17+: You must be at least 17 years old to purchase this application. (emphasis in the original)
Applications in this category may also contain frequent and intense offensive language; frequent and intense cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence; and frequent and intense mature, horror, and suggestive themes; plus sexual content, nudity, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs which may not be suitable for children under the age of 17.
Sounds like we’ve got some exciting 17+ apps coming our way. And, without a doubt, endless debate as to the merit of Apple’s ratings system, and the categories they’ve devised, and which apps receive which ratings and why.
A quick test of the restrictions found that they do indeed prevent me from downloading Exterminator with the settings turned down to 4+ and below only. You can view the app’s info screen in the App Store, but that’s as far as you’ll get. Notice the grayed out “Free” button at the top right of the screen. No novelty gunshot noises for junior.
In addition to a rating, each app also receives a brief description of how it earned that classification, so you know Apple reviewers weren’t just choosing at random because their eyes are bleeding from reviewing thousands of apps. Doubt the ESRB is pleased with the company’s decision to go it alone, but I expect we’ll hear first-hand what they think of the move any moment now.