Apple Will Remove Sticker Pack ‘Phoneys’ for Replicating iMessages if Changes Aren’t Made

Apple on Friday threatened to pull Phoneys, a 99-cent sticker pack which lets you prank friends by putting words in their mouth. The #1 Top Paid item in the Messages App Store, Phoneys employs a simple trick to make the illusion work: it provides stickers that look exactly like the blue iMessage bubbles. Phoneys developer Adam Howell says Apple told him it would be pulling the app next Thursday unless it’s fundamentally changed so that the stickers looked nothing like iMessage bubbles.

Specifically, the stickers can’t be blue, or green, they can’t use Apple’s San Francisco custom typeface, and the sticker pack cannot be marketed as a “prank app.” Apple doesn’t have a track record of approving “prank apps,” and despite the fact that Howell never marketed Phoneys as a prank app, others certainly did.

Howell has to make distinct changes to the sticker pack, like making them look like “comic book cartoon bubbles,” or Apple will be pulling the sticker pack from the iMessage App Store altogether.
“Bill was nice, but to the point. Apple’s lawyers weren’t happy that Phoneys got through the review process. The stickers couldn’t be blue or green, they couldn’t use San Francisco as the typeface, and the app could no longer be marketed as a “prank” app, because Apple doesn’t approve prank apps (even though I myself had never used the word “prank” when marketing Phoneys, others did, and I certainly understood where he was coming from). They were not going to pull the app, Bill made sure to emphasize. They’d give me a week, until next Thursday, to fundamentally change it so that the bubbles looked nothing like iMessage bubbles, instead looking something closer to “comic book cartoon bubbles”. I said okay, thanks a lot Bill, and that was the end of the conversation.”
In past cases, Apple has unceremoniously pulled an offending application from the App Store, and then let the developer make changes after the fact to resubmit the application for the review process. This is a bit different, and it’s the first high-profile, popular sticker pack that’s been removed after it has been approved.

The idea for the app was born out of an experiment, Howell told TechCrunch:
I noticed how you could completely cover up texts with stickers. I started joking with a friend that I could maybe make him say anything I wanted. So I made a couple quick stickers locally on my iPhone to test it out, and sure enough it worked.

The 99-cent sticker pack is currently live in the App Store, so download it now if you like before Howell changes it substantially, which would defeat the very purpose of the app, or Apple removes it a week from today.


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