Is Apple Wrong for Breaking Its Own App Store Rules?

Apple released an app dedicated to showcasing iAd campaigns from key advertising partners Tuesday, and a blog post at inneractive points out that Apple (s aapl) reportedly rejected a similar app from a third-party developer (called Ads Tube) intended for release around the launch of iAds. Many also point out that Apple’s new app is in violation of its own guidelines governing the approval of titles for release in the App Store. Specifically, guideline 2.13 states that “apps that are primarily marketing materials or advertisements will be rejected.”
Leaving aside the fact that movie tie-in apps are almost all “primarily marketing materials or advertisements,” did Apple do anything wrong in rejecting an iAds showcase app and then releasing its own? No, for a few very simple reasons:

  1. Apple is often exempt from its own rules. For example, it’s allowed to access APIs that other developers don’t have access to. Try finding a third-party app that plugs into Find My iPhone and you’ll come up empty-handed.
  2. Apple has a responsibility to advertisers regarding the use of iAds. If they were presented in a way that a brand might perceive as damaging in the third-party showcase app, that could be very bad for Apple’s advertising relationships.
  3. We don’t know the full story behind Apple’s rejection of Ads Tube. There could be other reasons behind its dismissal, and even if there aren’t, it’s still in violation of Apple’s App Review Guidelines, to which Apple itself is exempt (as mentioned above).

Before waving a finger at Apple, consider that by rejecting the Ads Tube ad it was enforcing a policy that keeps a lot of spam out of the App Store, and also that in releasing a similar app itself, it provides a solid, dependable experience that offers the same functionality from a known and trusted source. The specific developer behind Ads Tube may not have intended anything malicious with the app, but if I’m going to be using an app designed solely around marketing, I’d rather it comes from a company I trust than someone I know nothing about.