Within the past few months, Google has taken steps to improve the Android Market, its application market for Android smartphone users. As part of its Android Market improvements, Google has also made modifications to its app rating system. This mandatory rating system is an indication that the market is finally growing up and is bringing a little more order to a market that was considered unorganized previously. Google is playing catch-up to Apple’s App Store, which has had a similar rating system in place since 2009. Each rating system is based on age groups, although the Android Market does not attempt to define by specific age groups; rather, it uses the ratings of All, Pre-Teen, Teen, and Mature. The intention of such a rating system is to help the consumer decide if an app or its content is age-appropriate for his or her needs.
All developers must update their existing apps and create a new designation for new apps that they plan to submit. If developers fail to create a designation for their app, then it will be classified as “Mature” by default according to Google. Each developer is responsible for rating his or her own apps, and there is no policing to approve or impose the ratings. However, the Android Developer Ecosystem group can re-rate an app which they believe was not correctly rated by a developer. The best policy is to rate your app appropriately, and avoid any negative press that you might receive if your app is deemed too violent or too mature for a particular audience.
From a general guideline standpoint, here are some general recommendations. If you desire to give your application the “All” rating, then your app should not host any user-generated content or enable communication between users. If your app contains mild cartoon or fantasy violence, then it should be rated “pre teen.”
Applications that are rated “Mature” (by non default) are those that contain graphic violence. Keep in mind that the Android Market does not allow superfluous violence. That may be a tough call as to exactly what constitutes superfluous violence, but if you have any doubt, then you should probably give your app a “Mature” rating. Applications that contain sexual and suggestive content, profanity, and crude humor should receive a “Teen” rating. If your content goes beyond suggestive, then it should be given a “Mature” rating. The sin topics such as gambling, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs get a “Teen” rating, but again, if the topics are more elevated, then they should be given the “Mature” rating. Apps that require location-sharing should also be limited to certain ratings such as “Teen” and “Mature” so that young children’s locations are not revealed by those applications.
How to Rate Your Application for Android Market
When you submit your application, you must label your applications according to the Android Market ratings system, which consists of four levels:
Developers should use the following guidelines to classify the content in their applications. This includes all content, including user-generated content and advertisements. All applications should adhere to the Android Market Developer Content Policy. You can view the full app rating policy.
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drugs
Apps that contain illegal content are not permitted in Android Market. Apps that include references to drugs, alcohol, or tobacco products must be rated "Teen" or higher. Apps that primarily focus on the consumption or sale of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco must be rated "Mature."
Apps that facilitate real gambling are not permitted in Android Market. Apps with gambling themes or simulated gambling must be rated "Teen" or "Mature."
Hate speech is not allowed in Android Market. Apps that contain inflammatory content must be rated "Teen" or "Mature."
Applications rated "All" must not ask users for their location. Apps that access location data must be rated "Pre-Teen" or higher. Apps that publish or share users' location with others must be rated "Teen" or "Mature."
Profanity and Crude Humor
Apps that include profanity or crude humor should be rated “Teen” or "Mature."
Sexual and Suggestive Content
Pornography is not permitted in Android Market. Apps that include suggestive or sexual references must be rated "Teen" or "Mature." Apps that focus on suggestive or sexual references must be rated "Mature."
User-Generated Content and User-to-User Communication
Apps rated "All" must not host any user-generated content or enable communication between users. Apps that focus on allowing users to find each other and communicate should be rated "Teen" or "Mature."
Apps that contain mild cartoon or fantasy violence must be rated "Pre-Teen" or higher. Apps that contain realistic or intense fantasy violence must be rated "Teen" or "Mature," and those that contain graphic violence must be rated "Mature." Gratuitous real violence is not allowed in Android Market.