Apple's App Store crackdown: For better or for worse?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| Published: April 10, 2013

What makes a smartphone a smartphone? Ask any smartphone user and you'll likely get the same response - the ability to support applications. Whether you're using the App Store, the Play Store, the App World, or Windows Phone Store the amount of potential for users and developers alike are virtually endless. However, for one company, the developer dream has been cut short by a recent crackdown from Cupertino-based tech giant, Apple.

According to tech website AllThingsD, AppGratis, an application discovery app, was recently pulled from Apple's App Store for violating developer guidelines. While removing an app for violating set terms sounds easy enough, it comes as a surprise to Simon Dawlat, founder of AppGratis, who says he is “in total disbelief” over the ordeal - and rightfully so. This removal from the App Store comes just days after being approved for a version on the iPad.

So what guidelines did AppGratis actually violate, might you ask? Specifically, clauses 2.25 and 5.6 are the focus of AppGratis’ violations. Clause 2.25 states:

“Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected.”

While 5.6 says:

“Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind.”

So yes, there’s no denying that AppGratis does both of these things as they feature Apps from other developers, and send one push notification each day to users who opted in for the push notification, notifying them that their deal is ready; thus violating two clauses of the App Store Review Guidelines.

This is nothing new - the app has been running this way since its release. AppGratis has run into a few snags along the way back in 2011, where they basically faced the same claims and had to clarify their intent and why they feel they should be allowed on the market despite violating terms. At the time, App Store Reviewers ok’d the explanation and let them through. Virtually nothing has changed within AppGratis - the change comes from Apple.

The question still remains, why is AppGratis the only app discovery app to be removed? What about competing products? Rumor has it that AppGratis was the unfortunate first casualty in a long line of casualties that will be coming very soon, as Apple plans to give the axe to all applications violating these same clauses.

While I understand that Apple has every right to pull an app from their own store, I feel like they should be focusing on apps that don’t have 12 million plus users, not to mention the issues that AppGratis fixes in regards to easier app discovery. It's no secret that the current setup of Apple's App Store is horrid - it's not that easy to find new and reliable apps if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Miss a letter and your whole result is screwed up.

On the other hand, I also realize that apps like this rely heavily on money paid by developers in order to get their app name out there. There's not exactly equal opportunity when your app relies heavily on the amount of money you can spend vs. the quality on the actual product. There are probably some really great apps out there that most people will never know about because they just don't have the funds to be advertised by a more popular app like AppGratis. But is this really what Apple is trying to do? Is Apple fighting for the equality of developers with limited funds?

It's possible, but most fingers point towards Apple’s acquisition of app discovery company Chomp early last year, despite the fact that the product was discontinued as of October 2012. However, just because a product is discontinued doesn’t mean that it can’t just as easily resurface. App discovery applications, especially ones as large as AppGratis, would certainly get in the way of Chomp if it happened to resurface at some point in the future.

Apple has already pulled the plug on AppGratis and is seeing massive backlash both with support and negativity. The question that remains is, how many people will continue to support Apple after they pull more app discovery applications? And what else are they planning to pull? Will this “spring cleaning” result in a cleanout of customers purchasing iPhones due to lack of security and freedom within the App Store? I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.

Readers, what are your feelings on the pull of AppGratis from the market? Do you think this will change the App Store for better or for worse? Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments below!

Images via DigitalTrends, iDownloadBlog