Apple broke its own rule by pushing a (RED) promo message. So what?

App Store RED notification 002

Apple on Monday tapped its Push Notifications mechanism to remind users that they can donate money to (RED) charity by purchasing (RED)-branded iPhone and iPad apps.

The company has also created a donation page in the App Store (the first banner below ‘Games for (RED)’ section) for simple, convenient and frictionless donations of $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 or $200.

A dedicated donation webpage is available at, but it requires you to use a web browser and type in your credit card information, as opposed to the simplicity of iTunes billing.

Reminding folks to “get great apps and help (RED) fight AIDS” via a push alert did not sit well with some nit-picky watchers. I’m talking about Instapaper and Tumblr creator Marco Arment whose blog post insists Apple broke its own rule about using Push Notifications for promotions.

Some people piggy-backed on Marco’s blog post and tweeted out their disdain because the App Store sent them the (RED) notification, twice.

“This is clearly a promotion, will annoy thousands or millions of people and is in direct violation of the least-enforced rule in the App Store,” Arment wrote explaining his first-world problem with Apple’s promo alert.

Claiming Apple broke its own rule is something of an exaggeration. Who’s to say that App Store rules  must apply to Apple? Just because a rule exist for third-party apps doesn’t mean Apple itself should abide to it.


To be fair, Apple’s App Store rules indeed state that “apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions or direct marketing of any kind.”

A rule is a rule, but enforcing this particular clause is easier said than done: imagine policing every single push alert that apps send out!

Instead of criticizing Apple, we should commend the company for doing the right thing because this is about saving lives, not “promotional” alerts per se.

As MacStories editor Federico Viticci politely put it, Apple’s (RED) Push Notification should be considered an exception because it’s for a good cause. For someone who has survived cancer and fought it publicly, Viticci is 100 percent right.

Apple World AIDS Day 2013 (App Store donation page)

The argument goes the other way, too. Imagine if every good cause sent you a notification: you’d have push alerts for Tahiti relief, breast cancer, Alzheimer, leukemia and what have you.

In a perfect world, this would not exist as a topic of discussion. Since we’re not living in a perfect world, I’m open to learning about your position on the matter.

Is Apple entitled to break its own rule in case like this? And are we ethically entitled to whine about a single notification reminding us to help fight this horrible disease which, mind you, has claimed more than 36 million lives?

What was Apple supposed to do? Adhere to its rules and not send the alert just because someone somewhere may deem it spammy? Since when have we become a society that disses corporations no matter what, even when they’re doing what’s right as Apple clearly did in this particular instance?

Apple Store (World AIDS Day)

In my view, this is much ado about nothing. Whining about the App Store’s (RED) notification is missing the point, even more so given that virtually every freemium iOS game under the Sun sends tons of promotional alerts to push us into spending cash on virtual items.

It’s also turning a blind eye to the fact that Apple’s been a key partner of PROJECT(RED) initiative by U2’s Bono to help end the spread of AIDS in Africa, with Apple’s contributions topping $70 million to this date.

In that regard, sending a gentle reminder to download (RED) apps certainly can’t be harmful and most certainly shouldn’t be considered a terrible violation of Apple’s own rule because today is not just any day, it’s World AIDS Day.

Please read, if you will, Marco’s blog post in its entirety for a better understanding and then come back here to comment.