Some app developers have just about had enough with what they say is Apple's meddling. The company has taken a tougher stance on developers since the launch of iOS 8, Apple's newest mobile operating system.
App developers have seen a wave of rejections from the App Store, and it's happening to more and more apps. It's not just outright rejections that have developers worried, though. Apple is also asking developers to remove parts of their apps. Apple has always rejected apps. The company wants to keep quality standards high in its app store. What's new is that established developers are starting to grumble more loudly about the rules Apple enforces.
One of the most prominent iOS developers, early Tumblr employee Marco Arment, called Apple's moves "disgusting." Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
This isn't just about a bunch of tech geeks complaining about Apple's technical standards. The iOS App Store is at the heart of a $10 billion industry. Apple is its sole gatekeeper, and its ability to say yes or no to apps is potentially life or death for development companies, especially the smaller ones that have only one product.
The latest app to be hit by Apple's restrictions is Transmit. The developers behind the file-sharing app published a blog post yesterday that explained why the ability to send files with the app has been removed. They said that Apple contacted them to let them know that their app can only download files from iCloud, Apple's online document storage service. This meant that the app had to remove its entire "Send" function, preventing it from sending files to be uploaded to Box and Dropbox, as well as iCloud.
Here's the part of the app that has been removed:
App developers rarely speak out against Apple for fear of tougher restrictions or outright bans. Instead, we usually see blog posts simply explaining why features disappear.
That's not the case with another app, Launcher, though. It was a well-received app that let you create shortcuts for tasks inside Notification Center.
Here's what it looked like:
Cromulent Labs, the company behind Launcher, published a lengthy blog post on Sunday that explains what happened. Without warning, the developer received a message from Apple informing him that his app had been removed from the App Store.
After its removal, Launcher's users were left feeling "shocked and confused." The app's developer accuses Apple of "confidence/arrogance" over the decision, which seems to come from Apple's tight control over its Notification Center menu.
Here's a section from Cromulent's blog post that shows the way Apple deals with app developers:
They basically said that Launcher was a trailblazer in uncharted territories and that they felt that they needed to make an example of it in order to get the word out to developers that its functionality is not acceptable without them having to publish new specific guidelines.
But it's not just Transmit and Launcher that have been hit with changes by Apple. As Mac Rumors reports, there have been other cases where Apple has asked developers to remove parts of their apps.
Neato was an app that allowed you to take quick notes in Notification Center using a miniature keyboard. The app's developer thought that Apple would love what it had made, saying on its website that "we were expecting Neato to be featured by Apple."
But instead, Apple didn't like the small keyboard, so it asked the app to remove it. (It's unclear how this was resolved: There's no sign that the app was ever removed, and the keyboard still exists.)
Apple also got in touch with the developer of PCalc, a calculator app that sits in Notification Center. It said that developers weren't allowed to create calculator apps within that slide-down tray, effectively removing the app's sole purpose. Amazingly, Apple had even helped promote the app in the past by featuring it in the App Store.
Apple later changed its mind, though, and allowed the app back onto the App Store, but only after a wave of angry media coverage.
Developers are getting fed up with Apple's policy of suddenly removing apps, or surprising them with requests to remove key features. Many developers create apps for a living, so knowing that Apple could decide to remove your work from its App Store is a terrifying prospect.
Here's one developer expressing his frustration with Apple's policies:
Last week’s rejection? Your Today widget does too much. This week’s? Your Today widget doesn’t do enough. Seriously.— Greg Pierce (@agiletortoise) December 9, 2014
Early Tumblr employee and Instapaper cofounder Marco Arment, one of the most prominent iOS app developers, offered this decisive take on the new tough new App Store restrictions:
This is a disgraceful, disrespectful, and cowardly way to create and enforce policies, and it’s burning a lot of developer motivation to work on iOS. You’re better than this, Apple. Just disgusting.
We reached out to Apple for comment on this story and will update if we hear back.