Apple's App Store has been the subject of a lot of disputes lately. A number of scams and fraud apps have been found in the Store despite Apple's claim that the App Store is "a safe experience for users to get apps and a great opportunity for all developers to be successful." The company was also fined several times for not complying with the Netherlands' legislation. More recently, the company allowed "reader" apps to process payments outside the App Store.
What exactly is Apple doing?
Apple has now made a new move toward some apps on the App Store that hasn't been taken well by the app developer community. In an email titled "App Improvement Notice," sent to some developers, Apple says that it will remove some apps from the App Store that haven't been "updated in a significant amount of time." In a statement to the developers, Apple wrote:
This app has not been updated in a significant amount of time and is scheduled to be removed from sale in 30 days. No action is required for the app to remain available to users who have already downloaded the app. You can keep this app available for new users to discover and download from the App Store by submitting an update for review within 30 days. If no update is submitted within 30 days, the app will be removed from sale.
In simple terms, Apple has issued a statement to the developers who have not updated their apps in a while, saying that their apps may be pulled from the App Store. "We want to ensure that apps available on the App Store are functional and up-to-date," adds Apple. The company probably says this because older apps might not work well on the new version of iOS/iPadOS. Apple says that it will evaluate the apps that haven't been updated in a while and remove those that "no longer function as intended."
How app developers have reacted to the news
Developers haven't taken this very well. Protopop Games developer Robert Kabwe says that the company is threatening to take down the Motivoto game from the App Store because it has not been updated since May 2019. He says that Apple is willing to take this action even though his game is fully functional on the latest version of iOS. "Console games from 2000 are still available for sale. This is an unfair barrier to indie devs," he adds.
Another popular app developer Kosta Eleftheriou says that some of "Apple's own apps haven't been updated for much longer than that. Rules for thee, but not for me!" Eleftheriou is currently in a legal battle with Apple for copying his keyboard app into Apple Watch Series 7 and pushing him to sell his app to the company at an obscure price.
He adds that the once-super-popular Pocket God app still remains available on the Apple App Store even though it was last updated in 2015. Developer Emilia Lazer-Walker has also complained that some of her games have been removed from the App Store.
Is Apple right in doing so?
We believe that Apple is right in pushing developers to update their apps, but only to a certain extent. The company has always ensured that App Store is the best place to get apps and games for the iPhone — it is one of the reasons why Apple doesn't allow iPhone users to install apps from third-party places on the App Store. To make the App Store a "place for great apps," the company has to ensure that all the apps on the Store work as intended on the most recent version of iOS. And in doing so, it sometimes has to take some harsh steps and force developers to update their apps.
Although, one could also argue that while the intentions of Apple seem good, the implementation of this policy has been quite absurd. Developers are not very happy as Apple doesn't clearly state what "outdated" means — whether it is based on the time the app was last updated or if it concerns compatibility with the latest version of iOS. Moreover, as Eleftheriou points out, there are several apps available on the App Store (some from Apple itself) that haven't been updated in a long time. Some developers also argue that apps and games should remain available on the App Store regardless of their age — much like old video games on gaming consoles.
Earlier this year, Google also made a similar change on Android, asking developers to target API level within two years of the latest major Android release. With the recently sent emails, Apple also seems to be taking a similar approach by forcing developers to keep updating their apps. What are your thoughts on Apple's latest policy? Let us know in the comments section below!