Apple, Google Differ On COVID-19 Apps

John Lister's picture

Apple says it's banning any COVID-19 related apps unless it's certain they come from authoritative sources. It's also banning any game or entertainment apps related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The move is particularly significant as it's almost impossible to install an app on an iPhone or iPad unless it's been approved by Apple. In contrast, Android users can install unapproved apps from sources other than the official Google Play store, albeit only after confirming they are willing to take the security risk.

Apple says that when it comes to COVID-19 content it is "evaluating apps critically to ensure data sources are reputable." It will only allow apps that are from "recognized entities", a description that includes "government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions." (Source:

Legit Apps Get Quick Review

The advice is that developers who don't fall into these categories shouldn't submit COVID-19 apps. Apple says third-party developers working for a client that falls into the category should get them to sign up as the official developer.

While discouraging unreliable apps, Apple is actively encouraging content from reputable sources. It's asked developers to mark their apps as a "Time-Sensitive Event" which will mean they go to the front of the line for approval. It's also waiving the annual App Store membership fee in 13 countries for such organizations if they don't plan to charge customers for apps.

There's also a complete ban on any "entertainment or game apps with COVID-19 as their theme."

Google Blocking Some Search Terms

Google appears to be using a broader approach to such apps. At the time of writing, terms such as "Coronavirus" and "COVID-19" returned no results from the Google Play store. It's possible Google has manually blocked such uploads, but a much more likely explanation is that it's simply blocked the search results for those terms.

Perhaps surprisingly "covid19" does return a string of results with apps from a wide range of sources with differing levels of authority. It does bring up several games that relate to viruses and outbreaks, though they don't appear to explicitly cover the current pandemic. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Has Apple made the right call here? Would you change its criteria for reputable sources of information? Or should it let every app through and leave it to user reviews to decide what information is useful?

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