Fear And Loathing In the App Store 8 - Apple Takes Down Innovative App
Written by Lucy Black   
Wednesday, 08 October 2014

Programming into the unknown - it is what keeps us all going. The idea that with nothing but some code we can do something that hasn't been done before. In the old days what you did was between you and your intellect. Now there is a third party getting in the way - the gods of the app stores. 



Apple makes the rules and enforces them without discussion or right of appeal. We put up with this because access to the iOS platform is potentially lucrative and rewarding in all senses.

When Apple introduced the widgets feature in iOS 8 it doesn't seem to have been particularly clear about how they could be used. Greg Gardner had a really good idea and put together an app called Launcher that used widgets to launch apps from the Notification Center. It provides a super quick way to launch the apps that you use all the time. Just pull down the Notification Center, click on the app of your choice and it runs. 

Here is the promo video for the launch of Launcher:


The app was available, and approved, in the app store on the day that iOS 8 was launched. It was an almost immediate success with several hundred thousand downloads and became the top ranking productivity app. 

It sounds like a good news story and a dream come true for any developer - but wait, in the app store you are never home and dry. 

Apple contacted Greg to tell him that apps in the Notification Center that launched other apps weren't allowed because:

"...it is a 'misuse' of widgets, even though there are no written rules to this effect and the app was originally approved by them."

A compromise fix was submitted. In this version of the app that took the user back to the Launcher app which then redirects to the target app. This was rejected immediately without enough time to suggest that Apple had thought about it much. Even if the revised app had accepted, it was not as good as the original and so any success it might have had would have been limited. 




The Launcher app has been removed from the store and Apple has indicated that there is no appeal process available. Existing users can continue to use the app but there will be no bug fixes. As Greg reports:

"I've submitted an update to the app that fixes some critical bugs, especially the one that effects iPhone 6 Plus users not being able to add launchers, but Apple refused to allow this update to go live and there is no way that I can force them to."

As you can imagine this is a dispiriting experience for any programmer:

"At this point I have become quite disillusioned with iOS development and Apple as a company. It seemed that they were opening up the platform and allowing for more inter-app communication in iOS 8, but this decision shows that they still feel they know what is best for the users, even if users disagree. I'm not sure that I can continue to support a company that claims to put users first, but at the same time shows such disregard for their users' wishes. At this point I don't have any plans to continue developing iOS apps."

Let's be clear. An app is approved, sells well and only after being a success is the plug pulled. The reason, even though Apple don't quote this, is condition 10.4 in the App Store terms:

"Apps that create alternate desktop/home screen environments or simulate multi-App widget experiences will be rejected"

Users seem to want this sort of facility, but Apple has decided that it is not to be. 

So what can we do?

You can accept it and say that the Apple Store has always been good to you personally and even that it is the tight control that makes the store so profitable. Or you could think out of the box on a different platform. 

There is a petition, but with only 2000 signatures at the moment, it doesn't seem likely that the juggernaut that is Apple will take any notice. 




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