CTIA and ESRB Debuts Mobile App Rating System
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CTIA and ESRB announced a rating system for mobile applications that is designed to make it easy for parents to determine whether or not a specific mobile app is suitable for their children. The ESRB has been utilizing this rating scale for years with gaming consoles and PC games so parents are already familiar with the system. Most of the major mobile app storefronts are supporting this measure including AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless. But with 83 percent of all apps downloaded in the last 30 days downloaded on Apple iOS and Google Android smartphones, why are Apple and Google missing from this list? These big players haven’t issued an official statement as to why they’re not participating in this rating system but it’s pretty apparent.
Both companies already provide age and maturity level suggestions for each app listed in their storefronts. Reading between the lines, it’s obvious neither company wants to relinquish control over part of the app submission process to a third party. Apple seems to be rating their apps just fine on their own, having descriptive ratings for their apps, some of which even encompass the essence of ESRB ratings. Google indicates that they “put a lot of effort into Android Market’s rating system… so they think it’s best for Android users and developers to stick with Android’s existing ratings which are well known and understood.”
So what does this mean for app developers? According to CTIA and ESRB, developers submitting apps to participating storefronts will be required to fill out a multiple-choice questionnaire designed to determine the age-appropriateness of the content and context of apps. This includes information on violence, content, language, drugs, and what location or personal information is shared with third parties. This is only applicable to new app submissions. Those that are already in app stores won’t be rated unless developers choose to submit them for ratings. Developers also have a choice to appeal ratings if they feel it’s inaccurate with regard to their app’s content.
The question is: Do developers really need to go through an extra step in the already-complex app submission process, even if it is relatively painless? Whether a mobile app rating system will have much impact or show itself to be useful still remains to be seen.
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It seems like tech gifts such as smartphones and tablets are all the rage for children this holiday season so perhaps it’s not a bad idea after all. But I’m sure both sides of the fence will have their own opinions once the first rating badges begin appearing. What do you think?