Apple is telling developers to stop using emoji in their apps

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Bad news, emoji lovers: Apple is making it much harder for developers to put emoji in apps.

Numerous developers are reporting App Store rejections as a result of using Apple’s emoji designs in their apps — something which the company until recently allowed.

The company appears to be ramping up enforcement of a rule that prohibits app makers from using Apple’s emoji in any part of an app, saying it violates Apple’s copyright.

According to screenshots posted by developers, Apple’s rejecting the submissions under rule 5.2.5, which was added to its App Store guidelines last March. The rule says that “apps and extensions, including third party keyboards and Sticker packs, may not include Apple emoji.”

What’s less clear is why Apple is suddenly cracking down on apps that it previously allowed. Sam Eckert, the developer of cryptocurrency app Bittracker, was alerted last week that the latest version of his app wouldn’t be approved unless he removed several emoji symbols from his app’s interface and App Store screenshots.

Apple has yet to offer a clear explanation as to what’s going on here, but it appears Apple doesn’t want developers to use its emoji designs in their apps in any way unless it was inputted as text by the user.

“Apps are NO LONGER ALLOWED TO USE EMOJI in non-keyboard based situations,” writes Eckert, who says he spoke with Apple’s App Store review team about the issue.

To be clear, Apple has every right to do this. Its emoji designs are copyrighted and the company has  complete discretion over what is and isn’t allowed in the App Store. But, as Emojipedia editor Jeremy Burge points out, the current crackdown seems to be disproportionately affecting smaller, independent developers.

It’s also a dramatic departure from previous policies Apple has had, which allowed apps with emoji to proliferate.

So what’s changed? Without hearing from Apple directly, we can’t know for sure. As Burge notes, it could be that Apple has an increased interest in protecting its copyright now that Animojis are one of the standout features of the iPhone X. Or it could be that Apple simply wants more control over how its designs are used.

Whatever the case may be, the end result is the same: apps will have fewer emoji and that’s just ☹️.

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