Blog Post

Apple Cuts Down “A Real Tree,” Shuns Charity Apps

Yesterday we covered Apple’s (s aapl) seemingly automated rejection of a new Tweetie update, which has thankfully since been reversed. It must’ve been a no brainer once they realized what they’d done, especially since, while using Wordbook last night, I found I was able to search for, find, and have a computerized voice speak any profanity I could imagine, so long as the filter was off in the app’s settings.

arealtree_screenshot3I was also made aware of a second rejection yesterday, this one actually less of a rejection and more of a revocation after the fact. The app in question in this case is A Real Tree (iTunes link), which we covered when it was initially released. Mokugift, the people behind A Real Tree, contacted me explaining the situation, and it provides some rare insight into how Apple deals directly with iPhone developers. As a bit of background, A Real Tree is an app that is used to help plant trees in areas hurt by deforestation. You purchase the app, they plant a tree. Simple.

In the email, Mokugift’s representative describes how Apple called them a week ago to inform them that A Real Tree would need to be altered or would be removed from the App Store. The reason given was that a new policy was in place prohibiting apps from claiming to do anything beyond themselves, and that any and all applications related to charity were also no longer permitted. According to Apple, this was clear from the SDK agreement, though a search by Mokugift couldn’t produce any such reference in that document.

Not only that, but when asked for a written copy of the new policy, the Apple rep stated that they were only allowed to communicate it over the phone. In other words, they couldn’t commit anything to paper, where it might get out to the newsmedia and circulate. The shyness went even further, according to our source:

This person even declined to email us from an Apple email address to confirm that he worked for Apple. We wondered if this was legit, so we called Apple and asked for him via the front desk. He answered, so as far as we know he works there, but he won’t confirm his role nor this unwritten policy.

The conditions Apple gave in order to keep A Real Tree in the Apple store were to remove any reference to planting any actual trees, which is basically the entire point of the app. Mokugift was given until March 10 (yesterday) to comply, otherwise the app would be pulled. As of today, the app is still available, but there is no description associated with it.

Mokugift would like to continue helping the United Nations Environment Programme, but they’re at a loss as to how to convey the purpose of the app without stating that they will plant a tree for every app sold. They’d like our readers to offer suggestions as to how to get around the limitation. My own idea? Encourage users to write reviews which describe the app’s functionality, so at least it will be visible somewhere on the app’s page in iTunes.

Pretty sure we didn’t need another example of why the App Store review process is broken, but we got one anyway. Has me really hoping the Cydia Store pans out.

9 Responses to “Apple Cuts Down “A Real Tree,” Shuns Charity Apps”

  1. anonymous coward

    We developed an app and submitted it and were told point blank that they would not allow an app that donated money to charity or solicited money for charities. Again, there is nothing in writing that says it and honestly i think it is almost illegal but they can get away with anything right now…

  2. So much for a greener Apple. apparently their only green when they have to be. Since I’m sure that they read these answers, I’m telling them right now ‘Apple gets not one dime from me or my familt until they are green when they don’t have to be.

    As for billW, his comments are beyond contempt.

  3. Why should anyone give ANYTHING to charity? Why, in this day of a down economy and uncertain futures should I care about anyone other than myself? I agree 100% with Apple’s stance here, especially when it come to such touchy-feely, liberal-minded, worthless causes that help no one, such as planting a stupid tree.

    The best charities are the “feed the homeless” cheerleaders. Want to help the homeless? Gee, I have a great idea! Teach the how to WORK, how to LEARN, how to go back to school and get an EDUCATION so that they can fend for themselves and be RESPONSIBLE members of our society, instead of low-life scum, always begging for handouts.

  4. “how to convey the purpose of the app without stating that they will plant a tree for every app sold”

    I’m putting a $1 app on the appstore that will donate $5 to a charity every time someone buys it. I’m calling it iCharity.

    Trust me. Would I lie to you?

    It’ll be on the Appstore! It’ll have Apple’s seal of approval right!?

    What can go wrong.

    No it’s not all suspicious.

    I promise.

  5. Godfrey

    1. Create a button that submits a “request” to them for planting a tree. Purpose of the app = “Asking them to plan a tree for you”. Sounds valid as far as I can tell, much like.


    2. Add a statistics page in the apps that shows how many trees has been planted so far. So the purpose of the app = “Getting up-to-date information about this tree planting campaign”. That makes it a “widget” app (like the built-in “Weather” app), essentially.

    They can also add a “Tell a friend” button which sends an email that explains what’s going on with this app and/or an “About” button that links to the campaign’s page, where they can have more control over the contents.

  6. Unusual, considering the UK iTunes is openly promoting two apps that are raising money for the charity Comic Relief. It is one of the features apps, with full description of what is going to charity etc.