Earlier this week, the iMessage Sticker Pack “Phoneys” grew in popularity in a big way, covered by a variety of different publications.
The app, which is one of many within the new iMessage App Store, is a sticker package that allows users to prank their contacts by making it look like they’ve sent a message that says something like, “You’re hilarious,” or other pre-typed content. It’s a quick way to prank a friend or family member, especially since the stickers are still fresh on the scene.
However, the fun will apparently be coming to an end.
The developer behind the sticker pack, Adam Howell, has posted a personal blog that outlines a whirlwind week that, ultimately, resulted in a phone call from “Bill from Apple,” which ultimately led to the decision from the company to remove the Phoneys sticker pack from the iMessage App Store. The sticker pack will be removed in a week’s time if Howell doesn’t make some important changes, which will effectively reduce the whole point of the sticker pack.
Specifically, the stickers can’t be blue, or green, they can’t use Apple’s San Francisco custom typeface, and the sticker pack cannot be marketed as a “prank app.” Apple doesn’t have a track record of approving “prank apps,” and despite the fact that Howell never marketed Phoneys as a prank app, others certainly did.
Howell has to make distinct changes to the sticker pack, like making them look like “comic book cartoon bubbles,” or Apple will be pulling the sticker pack from the iMessage App Store altogether.
“Bill was nice, but to the point. Apple’s lawyers weren’t happy that Phoneys got through the review process. The stickers couldn’t be blue or green, they couldn’t use San Francisco as the typeface, and the app could no longer be marketed as a “prank” app, because Apple doesn’t approve prank apps (even though I myself had never used the word “prank” when marketing Phoneys, others did, and I certainly understood where he was coming from). They were not going to pull the app, Bill made sure to emphasize. They’d give me a week, until next Thursday, to fundamentally change it so that the bubbles looked nothing like iMessage bubbles, instead looking something closer to “comic book cartoon bubbles”. I said okay, thanks a lot Bill, and that was the end of the conversation.”
In past cases, Apple has unceremoniously pulled an offending application from the App Store, and then let the developer make changes after the fact to resubmit the application for the review process. This is a bit different, and it’s the first high-profile, popular sticker pack that’s been removed after it has been approved.
Apple’s review process has been around for quite some time, but it’s occasionally been a sore spot for the company, as apps have been approved, only to be removed after the fact — because those apps have grown in popularity and awareness. This is one such instance, but it appears Apple is at least giving Howell time to change things, if he so desires, before they remove the app.
It also appears that Apple is sticking to the no pranks app, even for iMessage sticker packs, so that area of fun is closed up.