Fear And Loathing In the App Store 11 - Apple Is Watching
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The new Apple Watch is a big opportunity for developers. It is also a huge opportunity for Apple to display new restrictions on what it allows in the App Store. 



As I tend to say at the start of all of these "fear and loathings", accepting the control of an App Store in return for profit is something that many developers are prepared to do, but it is a big trade off, money for loss of freedom. Like a dog that has been tethered with a loose lead, we seem not to feel it until it chokes us.

So it goes with Apple. The nice new Apple Watch is a wish come true for many iOS developers. But, as you guessed, Apple has a whole new property to defend. 

The first part of this story has a happy ending - well perhaps. 

It all started when Pocket Mariner submitted an update to its SeaNav US for Mac and had it rejected.





The app, which is well established, runs on iOS on iPhone or iPad and the changes to it were not likely to be the cause of a rejection. What was the cause was surprising to say the least. The app mentioned in its metadata that it supported the Pebble Smartwatch


"We noticed that your app or its metadata contains irrelevant platform information in the app. Providing future platform compatibility plans, or other platform references, is not appropriate for the App Store.

Specifically, your app and app description declare support for the Pebble Smartwatch."

Yes that is correct - Apple rejected an app that ran on iPhone and iPad because it mentioned support for a non-Apple Smartwatch. Would it have made any difference if it had also mentioned the Apple Watch?

You can see why Apple doesn't want an app to mention any other Smartwatch - if a really great app only supports, say, Pebble then perhaps the user might go out and buy a Pebble rather than an Apple Watch. On the other hand this more or less forces SeaNav to support only the Apple Watch and no other, irrespective of any technical merits. 

The good news is that after some consideration, and quite a bit of bad publicity, Apple phoned the Pocket Mariner people and apologized for rejecting the app in error and SeaNav is back in the app store. 

A happy ending... but.... 

The cause of the problem, condition 3.1 which reads:

3.1 Apps or metadata that mentions the name of any other mobile platform will be rejected

still stands.

So Apple didn't reject SeaNav in error because according the the App Store Review Guidelines it did and still does violate condition 3.1. 

So Apple is free to remove any app that supports another smartwatch any time it feels it can get away with it.  

Notice that the meaning of 3.1 has changed with the introduction of the Apple Watch. Before all it implied was that if you built an iOS app then you shouldn't shout about there being an Android version - sort of reasonable if you accept the over-controlled world of the app store. However, now that Apple has the Apple Watch as a peripheral to iOS devices, the condition means you can't write an iOS app that supports another manufacturer's perhiperal. For example, you cannot have an iOS app that works with Pebble say - so restricting the users choice to the Apple Watch. 

The second story is about the Apple Watch and its ability to tell the time as you might want it to. Apple has updated its guidelines to include:

10.7 Watch Apps whose primary function is telling time will be rejected

When you first read it your initial reaction might be the same as mine - it makes you feel as if you are in an Alice in Wonderland sort of world where watches are banned from telling the time.  Of course, Watch apps whose primary function is to tell the time are going to be available, but the unwritten part of the rule is that they will all be made by Apple. 

Other Smartwatches, the Pebble for example, are happy to let you experiment and create alternative watch faces. Want a watch face that shows the time in binary or hex or .. The market will most likely supply it for you. For now, not only are developers denied the opportunity to innovate and create watch faces that users might want, users have to rely on Apple as the only innovator in this area. 

It isn't even easy to work out when an app might trigger 10.7. Is an app that shows you the setting of the Sun or the rising of Jupiter primarily about telling time? What about countdown apps to a special event? What about an app that tells you how long till it is time to take your pills?

As far as users are concerned this means that you can have any watch face you like as long as it is an Apple watchface.


And all of them are Apple


The European Union might well be persuing an antitrust case against Google but you have to wonder how Apple gets away with it.  

More Information

Apple [NOT] now rejecting apps with Pebble Smartwatch support

App Store Review Guidelines



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