Out of Touch

Apple’s remarkable track record of bad decisions in the past few months makes me wonder if management has completely lost touch with reality.

The Purpose of App Review

Apple is known to not always do what’s best for their developers, and that’s fine. But they are usually pretty good at acting to the benefit of their customers. I fail to see how that’s the case recently.

Greg Gardner, developer of Launcher, recounts his conversations with Apple’s app review team:

Over the past couple of months I’ve had several conversations with people at App Review and the best way that I can explain the reason why they don’t want Launcher’s functionality to exist on iOS is because it doesn’t meet their vision for how iOS devices should work. And they have both the arrogance to believe that anything that doesn’t match their vision should not be allowed to exist in their ecosystem and the complete control required to make sure it doesn’t.


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. …

This was a pretty big revelation to me. After Launcher was rejected and the press picked up on it and started writing articles which painted Apple in a bad light, I was afraid that Apple might be mad at me. But it turns out that was actually the outcome they were looking for all along.

This is so messed up. What does it say about Apple’s priorities when app review spends its time policing developers for building features that are innovative, useful, and entirely opt-in anyway?

At around the same time, Twitter announced that their app is now spying on users in a new way, using a public API for a purpose it was clearly not intended for. I would argue that this practice, if not against the letter of the Review Guidelines, is much more harmful to users. It’s stuff like this that should warrant action from the app review team.

If, instead of making capricious decisions for people how they can use their phones, Apple cracked down on Twitter for privacy violations, or had done so in the past with Path, for example, or the countless developers who use push notifications for spam, app review could actually help position the iOS platform in a way that’s consistent with company policy.

If app review would focus on protecting users from malware and spyware, it could actually make the App Store a better place and iOS so much more attractive to lots of people (including me). In its current state, it achieves the opposite.

Update December 12, 2014: Apple has reversed the rejection of Transmit.

Update December 18, 2014: The Drafts widget is back, too.

  1. I’m excluding the Launcher rejection here because, unlike the other apps, it seems to actually violate an explicit rule from the App Store Review Guidelines that has existed for some time (“10.4 Apps that create alternate desktop/home screen environments or simulate multi-App widget experiences will be rejected.”). We can argue whether this rule makes sense, but at least Apple did not have to pull some ridiculous justifications out of thin air. ↩︎