Apple reverses promo code policy for 17+ apps

Apple has reportedly reversed a policy halting developers with iPhone applications rated 17+ from acquiring promo codes, again giving programmers the opportunity to pass along free copies of their apps for promotional purposes. Apple stopped distributing promo codes to applications meeting the criteria for a mature rating following the recent introduction of the iPhone OS 3.0 update and its enhanced parental controls--in the past, developers who uploaded a new version of their software to the App Store were given an opportunity to create up to 50 promo codes to give out for various marketing purposes, e.g. media reviews, contest giveaways, and so forth. But with applications now broken down into four age categories (4+, 9+, 12+ and 17+), The Unofficial Apple Weblog reported that Apple has removed the promo code functionality for apps rated 17+, presumably to prevent children from downloading potentially objectionable content. Now TUAW, citing confirmation from several iPhone developers, reports that Apple has changed course, granting promo code requests regardless of an app's rating. Apple has not officially commented on the policy change, nor did it publicly announce its earlier decision to terminate promo codes according to rating.

Apple defines apps rated 17+ as software that "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." However, iTunes applications that feature an embedded web browser or provide access to third party content also automatically require the 17+ rating, regardless of the app's content or intended audience. iPhone apps like Twitter clients, web browsers, IM clients, ebook readers and Flickr clients could still end up earning the 17+ badge as well, although developers can at least again rely on promo codes to pursue media coverage.

For more on the promo code change:
- read this Unofficial Apple Weblog post

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