Condemned without a clue: Aussie app pulled from App Store

Russell Ivanovic
1 June, 2010
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iPhone and iPad developer Russell Ivanovic from Groundhog Software used to sing Apple’s praises regarding its App Store. But following a call from the company regarding one of his apps being too ‘widgety’, that all changed very quickly:

A month ago I wrote a blog post about how Apple was not actually evil, because I was getting sick of all the media hype and bashing that was going on. Little did I know that a month later that blog post would come back and smack me in the face.

Just yesterday the company that I work for (Groundhog Software) got a phone call from Apple, telling us that our photo frame application for the iPad My Frame was to be removed from the Apple App Store. The company refused to be pinned down to an exact reason, simply stating that it was doing a cull of any applications that presented widgets to the user.

All the guy on the phone would say is how much he liked our application, and how sorry he was, but there was nothing he could do. All we got out of him was that Apple no longer liked ‘widgets’ and wanted all widget apps removed. Apple refused to say what (if anything) we could remove from our application, or even who we could discuss this with. Allow me to quote something I said a month ago:

I don’t think there’s that much that is ‘murky’ about [Apple's] approval process, every time our apps have been rejected it has been for a reason that is documented in either an interface guidelines document, or some other part of their documentation. In my experience (and that’s all I can comment on) it’s extremely well documented as to what you can and can’t do.

Well now my experience is different. Our application is being removed for a very murky reason, one which is nowhere to be found in any documentation that Apple give us developers. Even worse, it’s a reason that Apple refuses to explain, or put in writing. Reminds me a little of Alice in Wonderland:

I think I should understand that better, if I had it written down: but I can’t quite follow it as you say it.

I really do get the impression that the guy we were talking to on the phone was being as evasive as he could, even though he didn’t want to be, because he was terrified of giving us any more information than he had to.

It’s fair to say I was angry at that point. Why wouldn’t I be: I had convinced my company to take a gamble and make some apps for Apple’s Store. Tennis Stats had been a great success and we wanted to get on the iPad train with My Frame. Things were going well, new features were being planned, and money — real money — was being invested.

Then Apple pulled the pin, so I emailed Steve Jobs himself:

Hi Steve,

Just got a phone call from Apple letting us know that our iPad app ‘My Frame’ is being removed from the store. Apparently Apple is cracking down on ‘widgety’ type apps. Our app is a beautiful photo frame with a few nice things you can put over your photos. It’s not ugly, or even widgety.

What gives? I’ve always defended you guys in the past, but it seems like you’ve crossed an invisible line here, even the guy on the phone was saying how much he likes our application but that there’s nothing he can do?

I have no idea what possessed me to do that, nor did I expect a response, but I got one:

We are not allowing apps that create their own desktops.  Sorry.

Sent from my iPad

So I sent one final response, feeling both angry at Apple, and conscsious that if Steve really answers his own emails I was wasting his time:

Understand, but don’t agree…besides all of which our application (My Frame) is a photo frame, not a desktop environment. Your people won’t even tell us what we need to remove to get approved, they are just kicking us out. Put yourself in our shoes.

I see now why people are so angry at the ‘murky’ nature of the App Store, and I’m starting to agree with them. My Frame was approved by Apple three times (once for each version we released), and now, at version 1.2 they decide it’s to be removed?

How can a company be prepared to invest into a platform that can change at any time, cutting you off and kicking you out, with no course of action but to kick up a fuss and hope someone listens. There is no alternative platform, despite what others may say about Android, it’s immature and their app store(s) are a wild west nightmare.

It really is Apple’s way or the highway, and that really stinks. Badly. Very badly.

Apple is the angry queen from Alice in Wonderland, screaming “Off with her head!” and we have little recourse but to watch their pack of card minions execute those orders.

A version of this article originally appeared here on Russell’s Shifty Jelly blog.

One Comment

One person was compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Saleh says:

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I?ll try to get the hang of it!

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