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Rachel Metz

A View from Rachel Metz

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.”

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