Apple Needs To Nail Down Its App Store Review Policies Or Face Losing Developers

Yesterday, Greg Pierce, developer of Drafts 4 for iPhone and iPad, was informed by Apple that he had to remove his Today view widget from the app or face his app being pulled from the App Store.

Greg explains on Twitter:

Welp. Enjoy the Drafts Today widget while it lasts. Apple has required me to re-submit w/o the buttons to create drafts or open the app…

— Greg Pierce (@agiletortoise) December 2, 2014

…if what they are telling me is true, expect Evernote and other widgets which have similar shortcuts to be removed as well. — Greg Pierce (@agiletortoise) December 2, 2014

@johnvoorhees No buttons. I was told the Today view is for information presentation only, essentially. — Greg Pierce (@agiletortoise) December 2, 2014

It’s not the first time a dev has been singled out for adding a widget into Notification Center’s Today view that Apple wasn’t best pleased about.

In September, Launcher by Cromulent Labs, an app that, as the name suggests, allowed users to launch actions from Notification Center was removed rom the App Store for a “misuse” of widgets despite having been previously approved. The following month, PCalc developer James Thomson was similarly asked to remove his widget functionality or face being booted from the Store before Apple changed its mind. In the case of PCalc, the app was featured prominently on the App Store for its widget making the situation even more curious.


There’s something going on here with Apple’s App Store review process. Either Apple doesn’t know itself what it wants Notification Center widgets to be used for or it hasn’t communicated this clearly to the people responsible for approving and curating App Store content.

The inconsistencies are obvious. While we don’t know what the future will hold for Drafts 4, how can PCalc’s (excellent) full-on calculator widget be allowed to exist in its app if widgets are “for information presentation only”? How can Drafts 4 be pulled for interactive buttons that prompt an action in the app yet others (with a real plethora of functionality) remain in the App Store? There’s clearly a disconnect between the policy makers and enforcers.

Yo, App Review. If the Drafts widget is not okay ( because of buttons, what about this?

— Federico Viticci (@viticci) December 2, 2014

Since WWDC 2014, Apple has seemingly been more open with third-party developers, communicating freely and interacting with devs rather than just bringing down the ban-hammer for no apparent reason. However, recent incidents have shown that there is still some mystery shrouding Apple’s review process.

Apple needs to fix this or face losing developers and hindering the quality of apps on the App Store.

For developers, it is a highly stressful experience putting an app through App Review at the best of times. To have something approved and subsequently removed, even more so.

Not only is it stressful, it’s expensive — developers like Pierce, Thomson and Greg Gardner at Cromulent Labs, invested a lot of time, effort and money into their apps, creating widgets for iOS 8 and remaining committed to the iOS platform.

These early adopters of new APIs are, effectively, being punished for creating something new, and keeping up with OS trends, when Apple eventually decides it doesn’t like the end product. This has a financial implication for the devs and more implications for the overall quality of apps on the App Store over time.

I know our own Josh Hrach, developer of Countr, has put ideas on the back burner due to inconsistencies in the enforcement of App Store guidelines — it’s not worth the risk.

If that’s truly the case with Today View widgets, then I guess I’ll not work more on what I had planned for Countr’s widget.

— Josh Hrach (@JoshHrach) December 2, 2014

Though, if they’ll allow a calculator widget to remain, I suppose a quick count widget could be accepted. Don’t know anymore.

— Josh Hrach (@JoshHrach) December 2, 2014

Developers will only be burned by this so many times before they stop trying.


This early adopter fear that breeds from convolution and contradiction will not aid Apple in getting developers on board with Apple Watch apps.

As a whole new platform, the mystery is even more pronounced. So far, Apple has done a good job at communicating what apps will be capable of at launch and pushing out an SDK that reflects this. However, there is still an element of risk for developers that they’ll spend 6 months creating an experience for Apple Watch that inevitably is rejected during App Store review or, worse, is accepted and pulled after-the-fact on a whim.

If Apple wants its ecosystem — perhaps its most valuable asset — to shine, it needs to nail down its policies from top to bottom. Every person in the chain should know what is and is not allowed and this information should be communicated clearly to developers.

If Apple wants to promote its burgeoning App Store, it has to look after the people responsible for its success.

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