iPhone Dictionaries, Censored by Apple

Nihongo is an English-to-Japanese dictionary app for the Apple iPhone.

People who try to buy it in the App Store, however, get greeted with this rather unusual warning:

You must be at least 17 years old to download this application

  • Infrequent/Mild Realistic Violence
  • Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive Themes
  • Frequent/Intense Profanity or Crude Humor
  • Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References
  • Infrequent/Mild Cartoon or Fantasy Violence
  • Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity

When Nihongo was first submitted for review, I chose the most benign rating (4+), thinking that a simple dictionary would not be offensive.

That submission was rejected, because Apple’s reviewers cited the four letter words they were able to lookup.

So I re-submitted, this time ticking off “Infrequent/Mild” in most categories, which pushed the rating up to 12+.

That submission was also rejected because “it is not appropriately rated“.

So I contacted the reviewers by email (unfortunately, there is no telephone access) and asked:

I’m not sure how to respond to your comment that the rating is inappropriate.

“Nihongo” is a Japanese dictionary.

As such, it contains some profanity, sexual content, etc. but the bulk of the content is not in that category.

That is why I rated it “Infrequent/Mild” for those content types.

Are you suggesting I need to go back and use “Frequent/Intense”?

It seems incorrect.

How are other dictionary apps rated?

Apple did not send me a reply.

So in my final submission (remember that neither the content nor the functionality of the app had changed in all this time), I changed some rating categories to “Frequent/Intense”.

That got Nihongo accepted, a mere six weeks after the initial submission.

Today I found out my experience with Nihongo was not unique, as NinjaWords had the same problems in review, and also had to accept a 17+ rating before their app could be sold in the App Store.

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