Apple to developers: Update your old apps, get more downloads, or it’s gone from the App Store
Everyone has a favorite iPhone app that just hasn’t been updated in a while on the App Store. We’ve all probably noticed its lack of a refresh at some point, but as long as it still works perfectly…what’s the big deal, right?
Well, it’s a big deal now. Over the past week, Apple has sent “App Store Improvement” emails to some developers of apps that haven’t been updated in at least 3 years, according to the company. In the emails, Apple advised developers they need to update their apps or they’ll get the boot from the App Store.
Indie developers, including Robert Kabwe of Protopop Games, who received this notice were not pleased and took their complaints to social media. Apple further explained the new policy in a press release published on Friday. But, the news release appears to have just made the company’s logic behind this move more confusing.
According to Apple, the removal of these apps will help improve the security and privacy of its users. The company also said the move will aid in the discoverability of regularly updated apps as search results won’t be filled with apps that haven’t been updated in years.
However, Apple also pointed out that another criteria for the removal of an app that hasn’t been updated in 3 years is that it also gets barely any downloads over a rolling 12-month period. This addendum is likely to protect some of the App Store’s most popular third-party apps from the early days of the iPhone.
As app developer Kosta Eleftheriou pointed out, the once-iPhone-defining game Pocket God is still in the App Store. Pocket God hasn’t been updated in 7 years.
The Verge argues that Apple’s downloads criteria undercuts the company’s point about doing this to strengthen user security and privacy on the App Store. Wouldn’t an app that is still getting lots of downloads but hasn’t been updated in years be even more concerning then a similar app that barely gets any downloads?
Even if Apple’s move seems like a good one to you, App Store game developers make the point that this rule is unfair to games. Perhaps, the rule makes sense for service apps that may constantly need updating, but video games can be made and released without ever needing updates, developers including Emilia Lazer-Walker have said in social posts.
“Games can exist as completed objects!” Lazer-Walker tweeted. “These free projects aren’t suitable for updates or a live service model, they’re finished artworks from years ago.”
For now, in response to the reaction from this policy, Apple has extended the 30 days it gave to developers who received the notice to update their apps. They have now been given 90 days to release an update.
Whether Apple will continue to fiddle with this new policy based on user reaction remains to be seen. But, developers’ pushback has already worked once. Perhaps certain apps that haven’t been updated yet work just fine can still be excluded from these rules, too.