CTIA Mobile App Rating System Introduced

Nov 29, 2011 4:30 PM PST

NEW YORK — CTIA, the international group representing wireless carriers, has announced the development of a mobile application ratings system to be implemented next year.

The new rating system is an extension of CTIA’s 2010 Guidelines for Application Content Classification and Ratings. The nonprofit worked with the Entertainment Software Rating Board to develop it.

The rating system mirrors ESRB's, which is used for video games and is geared to provide guidance to parents and children, especially when it comes to sexually explicit or violent apps.

The ratings system, with seven classifications, from "Early Childhood" to "Adults Only," is being initiated by AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Microsoft.

"CTIA is proud to have worked with the six founding storefronts, ESRB and developers to create this user-friendly and reliable mobile application rating system that will provide parents and consumers with information so they can determine what’s appropriate for children," said Steve Largent, CTIA president, in a statement.

The ratings system's process, CTIA said, will work like this:

"When developers submit their applications to a participating storefront they will be able to complete a detailed yet quick multiple choice questionnaire that is designed to assess an application’s content and context with respect to its age-appropriateness. This includes violence or sexual content, language, substances, etc., as well as other elements such as a minimum age requirement, the exchange of user-generated content, the sharing of a user’s location with other users of the application and the sharing of user-provided personal information with third parties. Once developers complete all answers to these questions, their applications are rated within seconds."

Each rated app will get a "certificate and a unique identifying code" that can be used with other app stores, CTIA said. Apps will be "routinely tested."

While the ratings system is well intentioned, it could prove fruitless because the two market leaders already have systems put in place.

Apple, with its 500,000 apps, has its own approval system; Android, with 200,000 apps, has a four-tier app rating system — "everyone," "low maturity," "medium maturity" or "high maturity" — in place.

ECRB ratings for video games are:

Early Childhood

Titles rated EC (Early Childhood) have content that may be suitable for ages three and older and contain no material that parents would find inappropriate.


Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and infrequent use of mild language.

Everyone 10+

Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and minimal suggestive themes.


Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.


Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Adults Only

Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

Rating Pending

Titles listed as RP (Rating Pending) have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating.  

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