Skip to Content

One App’s iOS Debacle Shows Dangers of Betting It All on Apple

A popular app gets yanked from Apple’s App Store, illustrating the danger of betting it all on one mobile OS.
April 9, 2013

AppGratis, an iOS app that offers users a free app each day that they’d normally have to pay for, is having a rough week. On Friday, Apple removed AppGratis from its app store, saying it ran afoul of two store guidlines: one banning apps that promote other apps, and another banning use of push notifications to send ads or direct marketing.

AppGratis founder and CEO Simon Dawlat does a good job of explaining the details of how AppGratis became app non grata in a post today on the company’s blog, and AllThingsD has posted confirmation from Apple of its decision. The 12 million people who already have AppGratis can keep using it, and the company says it will keep offering free apps and discounts to these folks, but new users will not be able to download AppGratis from the app store, which for many iOS users is the only place they go to find and download apps. 

Whether or not you like what AppGratis is doing, this strikes me as a really sad tale of what can happen when you place all your apps in one app store’s basket, so to speak. The control Apple has over the apps that iPhone and iPad users use, and over the companies that build these apps, is astonishing, and scary. The 45 employees of AppGratis are probably terrified of losing their jobs because of a single decision made by Apple, although the company did put itself into what it should have been obvious was a risky situation in the first place. In Apple’s defense, it seems to feel AppGratis is the one that created the problem.

AppGratis didn’t have to bet so heavily on Apple, though. If the company had already established a presence on Android through the Google Play app store (or in Microsoft’s app store for Windows Phone), Apple’s decision wouldn’t have felt so crippling. More and more, smartphone makers and wireless carriers are realizing the importance of branching out to multiple operating systems (see “The Underdog Operating Systems Set to Shake Up the Smartphone Scene”). It can be difficlt to build an app simultaneously for several platforms–doing your best work on each platform requires different tools and techniques–but maybe in the absence of a good common development standard that’s what app developers need to do to protect themselves.

As for AppGratis, Dawlat says it will forge ahead, writing, “even in dark times, every problem has a solution. And we are going to find one.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

Yann LeCun
Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

Europe's AI Act concept
Europe's AI Act concept

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

The European Union is planning new legislation aimed at curbing the worst harms associated with artificial intelligence.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.