After several years and 15 million users, Apple summarily removed iKamasutra from the App Store on February 20, 2012, ostensibly for adding brown hair coloring to our drawings. I have been trying to understand Apple's sudden concerns and address them, but with limited feedback and no real dialog from them, despite all our efforts, our options have dwindled.
In fairness to the millions of users who purchased the app and have been emailing us asking why they can't restore their purchases, why other apps have copied our designs and icons, and what the future is for iKamasutra, I'm writing this blog post.
When Apple removed all our apps on February 20, we asked why via all available means: iTunes Connect, emailing email@example.com and by telephone support—but we received no reply. Luckily, I had the direct line of someone in Apple's verification department. We had spoken previously on an unrelated matter many months before, and he explained that the app was removed because the icon was too explicit and the illustrations had too much detail, specifically brown hair color and facial details. That seemed like a minor bump in the road, and I agreed to change them both quickly.
The reason for adding the brown hair color was usability: it lets you understand the positioning more quickly because you recognize the head more easily. If you are a frequent user of iKamasutra and try enough positions, you quickly see why this is important. Though removing brunettes was a step backward, users had survived without knowing which way was up for years. Just in case, we also removed all weak gray lines and were confident Apple would approve. Take a look at the before and after here:
We revised the icon, as well as 460 individual illustrations, and requested an expedited review. We were worried about the increasing number of emails we were receiving from users who couldn't restore their app and in-app purchases and we didn't know what to tell them except "sit tight". Weeks passed without any information, and emails and phone calls went unanswered. Finally, on March 14, we managed to get someone to pick up the phone again and he hinted that some people at Apple were reluctant to let iKamasutra back into the store. He asked us to give the review team more time.
Two days later we received another startling rejection based on a whole new and completely unbelievable reason:
"Apps that duplicate apps already in the App Store may be rejected, particularly if there are many of them such as fart, burp, flashlight and Kama Sutra apps."
This response was particularly disheartening because it mistakenly couples iKamasutra with low-quality and scam apps. Those are precisely what Apple's rule is designed to protect developers like us against. Even a cursory look at iKamasutra and its competitors will demonstrate our leadership and innovation. To be clear: iKamasutra does not in any way duplicate the content of anything printed, on the web, or in another app. Our content and illustrations are written exclusively for the app by writers and illustrators with a unique artistic beauty and sense of humor. It was the first app of its kind, initially submitted in October 2008, and is still the most downloaded and highest-rated of all Kama Sutra apps. It has been in the Top Paid apps since its release with many thousands of reviews from all over the world, averaging an astounding 4.5 stars. We have updated the app bimonthly for years, adding more functionality, fresh content, with exclusive illustrations and descriptions, to inspire a modern audience while still complying with Apple's decency guidelines. We even had retina images available for the new iPad the same day the SDK was released, but we have not been able to publish that or any other update.
I phoned again and left messages, but with no response my only recourse was Apple's appeal process. We filed our written appeal on March 22, and now months later we are still without any response. That is only the beginning, though.
In the meantime we have responded to hundreds of emails from puzzled customers. Ironically, even competitors have asked us what has happened and if they can help out in any way. Obviously, they are as scared as we are: if this can happen to the oldest, top-rated and top-selling kama sutra app, it can just as easily happen to them.
At the same time, less scrupulous competitors have unfairly tried to benefit from iKamasutra's sudden vanishing act. In March, one of these apps, Kamasutra Alive, renamed itself Kamasutra+ and in the process changed its icon. Take a look and see if you notice anything eerily similar:
We had commissioned the icon to be designed for us by The Iconfactory, which took several months and underwent more than 20 iterations. It was not just an icon, but rather an essential part of branding iKamasutra, recognizable both as a small icon and in larger logos on webpages, press kits, and so on. By using the same color scheme and silhouette as our icon they were trying to dupe customers into buying the app. We have answered several emails from our users asking if we have changed the app's name and why there is a "+" version while they cannot restore the original app that they had paid for. Adding insult to injury, this icon design is supposedly one of the reasons Apple booted iKamasutra from the App Store in the first place. For Apple to allow another developer to just steal and make money off of our users is hard to take. After several months, Apple has finally removed not just this icon but the entire app from the store. Although we're happy to see copycats out of the store, it still leaves iKamasutra nowhere to be found on iOS.
Apple has created a set of guidelines that the iKamasutra team is happy to adhere to. Our problem is not the guidelines, but the mistaken enforcement of them, and the lack of dialog toward resolving any concerns Apple might have. Some of you have asked how you can help, and I think the best way is to tell Apple in your own words why you love the app, and to ask that they reconsider their decision.
One way to do that is to write to Apple at: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mention iKamasutra and our App ID: 297063632)
If enough of you express a sincere interest in our cause, I am sure that Apple's review team will reconsider. Thank you to all the 15 million users of iKamasutra. We're so happy to help make the world a more loving place.continue to ikamasutra.com