Not long ago, the Apple iPhone App Store was one of the few developer-friendly platforms available; allowing them to showcase their work in a trusted zone for maximum exposure. However, since then Apple has gone on a rampage as far as apps are concerned.
Some of these decisions seem valid and well-considered, however, most developers are crying foul.
Wi-Fi Discovery No Longer an Option
There were a number of apps in the App Store related to Wi-Fi stumbling, or the discovery of Wi-Fi hotspots within a certain radius. These apps will no longer be available in the App Store because they fail to comply with one of the cardinal rules of iPhone apps – they use private APIs in their code.
Apple has always maintained that third-party developers are not permitted the use of private iPhone APIs in their code. Use of these APIs firstly presents a security risk to phone networks, and also they are subject to change at any given time without notice. If an app uses a private API, and its definition changes, the app’s behaviour becomes unpredictable and potentially harmful for the phone.
However, earlier on Apple sent reminders to developers asking them to remove the dependence on these APIs from their apps. The gentle approach is history, and now any app using private APIs is removed without notice.
The ‘Explicit’ Category and Adult Content
Adult-themed apps are exceedingly popular amongst iPhone users, and therefore when Apple added the 'Explicit' category to their submission form, developers must have been overjoyed. However, their happiness was short-lived because Apple whisked away the category before it even took off and the removal of adult-themed soon followed. Sometime in February this year, Apple decided to add a category when developers were submitting apps for consideration – the ‘explicit’ category. Evidently this category was to create a niche for more adult content.
In a controversial move, Apple purged all apps with even a slight suggestion of adult-themed content. All apps with scantily clad ladies were summarily removed without an explanation. Later on, Apple commented that they were responding to complaints from women users about degrading material proliferating on the App Store, and that parents were concerned that their children were exposed to unsuitable content.
While the reasons are not outrageous by any means, it was later discovered that Apple chose to allow Sports Illustrated and Playboy apps to remain intact. These apps also contain pictures of nearly nude women in revealing bikinis, and yet were allowed to remain. Apple’s response was that the content source and intention was considered as a factor before removal, giving rise to sundry protests of unfair play.
The move was also surprising as Apple has an age rating system in place, allowing parents to filter the content for their children.
Previous Clean-up Operations
The first purge was the removal of all apps that did not meet the standards of Apple. These affected a number of apps already placed in the App Store. Around the same time, an approval process was implemented. Those apps that did not pass the approval process were returned summarily to developers without much indication as to why exactly they were rejected in the first place. The system seemed to be completely arbitrary, as there were other similar apps that made it to the App Store without any trouble.
Then there was the Emoji purge; and however legitimate Apple’s reasons, it was still a purge nonetheless. Emoji were Japanese emoticons leased by Apple for use with the iPhones in Japan. The iPhones therefore had support for these characters built into the phones, however, they were not allowed to use them outside of Japan. In spite of this injunction, there were a number of applications that used the popular Emoji characters in their text messages. Apple then rid the store of all apps that had even a remote connection to Emoji, and usage ground to an abrupt halt.
The End is nowhere in Sight
After Apple cleared away the smut and the Wi-Fi stumbling apps, one expected that there would be a lull in the purge of the App Store. This is not the case at all. The next bunch of apps to go will be ones made by app designing tools. Apple is going to turn down applications like those, although they will retain the existing ones.
App designing tools churn out similar apps by the dozen, with no individual functionality to already existing apps. Apple's contention here is that there is no value added to the App Store with the inclusion of apps like these. They lack originality and are not very useful to begin with.
The move seems arbitrary, in keeping with the overall image Apple has created for itself of late. In any event, there seems to be no end in sight as Apple purges apps right, left and center. It is merely a matter of time before something else is unceremoniously axed from the App Store.