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We're Leaving Apple's App Store (iOS)
Thank you for your patronage of our apps over the years. We really appreciate your support. Unfortunately, after nine years of being enrolled in Apple's iOS Developer Program - which translates to over 75% of the Apple App Store's entire existence (as they introduced the store in 7/2008 and we started with them in 6/2011) - and thousands & thousands of app sales, we are sad to report that we expect to pull out entirely from Apple's App Store. Please see below for additional information.
When Will We Pull Out Of Apple's App Store?
We expect to pull out of Apple's App Store in July at the end of our current term (7/12/2020).
Why Are We Pulling Out Of Apple's App Store?
In summary, we feel that Apple tends to abuse their monopoly power. In our case, we believe that they have been unfair, unreasonable, excessively demanding, not accountable, controlling/dictatorial, etc. We have concerns about their 'planned obsolescence' policies, their 'poor & disparate' treatment of developers, their 'apparent unwillingness to communicate in good faith', and various other concerns. Please see below for additional detail (click here).
Does This Affect Our Android Apps?
This does NOT directly affect our Android apps.
Is Our Withdrawal From Apple's App Store Permanent?
While we expect our withdrawal from Apple's App Store to be permanent (barring any unforeseen changes), we remain hopeful that regulators may, in the future, provide a path for iOS developers to sell apps outside the 'Apple ecosystem'.
Once we leave Apple's App Store, we have no control over what will happen to already purchased apps. Apps currently running on a device may continue to run without issue (at least for a while - perhaps until a certain iOS update). Regrettably however, after developers leave the Apple App Store, Apple may ultimately prevent customers from accessing those developers' apps that customers had paid Apple for (e.g. on new devices, after an uninstall, etc.). Again, we have no control over this, but we do apologize for the situation. [BTW, personally, as Apple customers, we agree that Apple's polices in this regard are unfair/wrong, and we strongly wish Apple would stop such 'egregious' practices.]
Will A Backup Prevent The Loss Of Apps?
Unfortunately, backups may *not* prevent the loss of apps after developers leave the Apple App Store. And once again, we have no control over this situation. In any event, we encourage you to try to backup the apps if you can.
Can Customers Purchase Our Apps From Apple's App Store Now?
It should be possible to purchase remaining apps from Apple's App Store until we exit the store (try here for links). Please be advised however, that the lifespan of the apps purchased may be short lived (see above).
Can We Send Customers Copies Of Apps?
Unfortunately, we cannot. As the apps were purchased through Apple, please contact them for assistance.
Can We Send Customers Refunds?
Sorry, no. As the apps were purchased through Apple, please contact them for assistance.
What About Tech Support?
Sorry, but once we leave Apple's App Store, we would not be able to provide individual iOS tech support. As time goes by and Apple updates the iOS, it may be anticipated that various aspects of prior apps will no longer function and/or appear as expected. As we would no longer be enrolled in Apple's Developer Program, we would not be able to offer updates or fixes. [Note: For some 'technical support considerations' concerning our apps, please try here.]
What Should Customers Do Who Miss The Content Of Our iOS Apps?
We are sorry if you find yourself missing the content of our iOS apps. We likewise regret the situation. As an alternative to our iOS apps, please consider that we may have some similar offerings in books (click here), and/or Android apps (click here). Please also try our A-Z help index for similar resources on our site (click here).
Will We Be Updating Our Sites Concerning Our Exit From Apple's App Store?
As we are already very backlogged, and with the changes introduced a while back (see here), we do not expect to be extensively updating our sites concerning our exit from the App Store in the foreseeable future. However, we do expect we'll be 'redirecting' some - but not all - links (e.g. to this page). We apologize for any inconvenience.
Is There Anything That Can Be Done?
First, consider downloading all purchased apps to all your applicable device(s) at this time. Although this is not a long term solution, retaining the apps on existing devices may provide some opportunity for additional use of the app(s) after we leave Apple's App Store.
Second, please contact Apple with any complaints (try online for their contact information). We imagine that we can't realistically hope for change unless customers and/or regulators demand it from them.
Third, please feel free to submit feedback to us (try here or here). We love to hear from you! [Please Note: We would especially like to hear thoughts from disgruntled developers/former developers & customers, attorneys, and regulators. Should you be able to offer any assistance with this situation, kindly let us know.]
Lastly, if applicable, please also contact government officials with complaints and/or requests (try online for their contact information). Again, we imagine that we can't realistically hope for change unless customers and/or regulators demand it from them.
Please ask your legislators to stop Apple's abusive monopoly power!
Thank You For Your Support!
Note: Please see below for additional detail regarding our concerns & experiences with Apple.
For interested parties, the following is some additional detail concerning our 9 years long experience with Apple...
One might say our troubles with Apple began with our first submitted app, Catholic Bible References, when Apple took issue with our listing of Scripture passages, notably those concerning morality (we recall they specifically had an issue with the Bible references that condemn homosexuality). They (offensively!) notified us that our Bible references app was rejected as follows...
"We've completed the review of your app, but cannot post this version to the App Store because it did not comply with the App Store Review Guidelines, as detailed below:
14.1: Any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms way will be rejected"
By the way, at the bottom of the screen that displays Scripture passages, our app specifically states, "Do not inflict or wish harm on yourself or others..." and the Scripture passage that references the ancient penalty for homosexuality clearly states that the penalty is not applicable under the New Law and states, "Do not inflict or wish harm on homosexuals. Rather, pray they receive the grace to lead a chaste life."
After an appeal, a phone call, and some (unnecessary, IOHO) changes, we were finally able to get a revised Bible references app approved. Despite this, we have pondered the idea of whether the app has gotten a truly 'fair shake' over the years since we recall having difficulty finding the app, even when searching for the app's actual title. ("What good is it to get an app up if customers can't find it?")
For a while after that, we'd say the issues with Apple were mostly minor [e.g. rejecting an app because we abbreviated the title under the icon since the full title wouldn't fit there (ironically, the final title that they allowed was even shorter...only 3 characters, 'JCI')].
As time went on, however, we began to have more issues with Apple's policies/practices, which we pretty much 'grumbled' about to ourselves but considered it as the 'cost of doing business'.
Then, our concerns escalated in 2016 when Apple notified us that our apps would be pulled because they hadn't been updated in a while. At our expense, we were somehow able to update all but one of the apps in the short time frame that Apple allowed. For the remaining app, we requested an extension since we needed more time for the rather involved update. The request was denied (quite unreasonably, IOHO) and the app was pulled. The app which was pulled - while not our most popular app - was at the time one of our "most used" apps.
Before our most recent troubles began, we had also been dealing with Apple's pattern of changes over the years that may tend to negatively affect developers, especially smaller developers. For example...
* The App Store listings significantly reduced the number of apps displayed per page - resulting in fewer potential customers seeing apps which appear further down the list (for example, instead of a potential customer seeing maybe 5-7+ apps at a time, it may how take 5-7+ swipes to see the same number of apps). IOHO, this serves to highly favor the apps listed first and greatly harm those that appear farther down the list, as most customers may not swipe down very far. This is exacerbated by the introduction of paid ads which push all other app listings even father down the list.
* Changes to various charts may also have reduced the number of apps displayed, resulting in fewer potential customers seeing apps that appear further down the list. We also recall that the charts previously were more robust (formerly making it easier to find new apps, as well as assorted other apps).
* The arguably 'degrading' quality of Apple's App Store search results may harm developers (not to mention customers). Perhaps apps may not even come up in search results, or they may come up way down the list - even if the customer searched for the app's exact name.
* Apple has introduced MAJOR changes to the iOS with arguably insufficient regard for backwards compatibility, potentially rendering apps inoperable and associated data inaccessible (barring any updates made at the developers' expense).
* Generally, we also feel that Apple has shown little regard for the practical situation of most smaller developers (not to mention the subsequent effects on app customers) in terms of a 'myriad of deprecated methods', frequent iOS updates (which may be arguably insufficiently concerned with backwards compatibility), the introduction of a brand new and 'ever-evolving' programming language (necessitating the ongoing use of developer resources to keep up with), Apple's ever expanding app related requirements, plus the subsequent introduction of a variety of device sizes/layouts which can be exceptionally difficult to deal with from an appearance/functionality basis, especially for those developers who want to maintain backward compatibility. Apple is now even starting to dictate to developers *how* an app must be built (e.g. storyboard instead of XIB now required), complete with deadlines for re-coding perfectly functioning existing apps that don't comply with the new rules. This is despite the fact that online research indicates that "as many as 99.99% of apps may be expected to fail in any given year." [Note: For those who think apps are a 'get rich quick scheme', they usually are NOT. The App Store is highly competitive, Apple takes 30% of sales, Apple charges developers $99 per year, and Apple's advertising costs can be quite expensive. 'Starving developers' may do much better on minimum wage, even when there are app sales! In fact, on some occasions where we have achieved a coveted spot on the charts in the U.S.A., we may have only received a single sale - or just a few sales - that day (for a total profit of less than many might spend on a meal). And that's on the days we actually make it on the U.S.A. charts! Hardly getting rich!]
* If memory serves, our customer ratings had also started to 'effectively' disappear from initial view [e.g. after an app update, requiring users to 'go looking for them' (however, most users probably won't know to look for them, or won't want to/bother to go looking for them)]. Sadly, ratings are already so hard to come by as most customers usually don't leave reviews. We have also found that a customer may actually leave a positive review, but it "won't go through." We have been told this by at least one user of our apps and we have also experienced it personally when trying to leave a review for another's app which failed to appear.
* Family sharing was 'forced on' developers a while back with no opportunity to opt out (at least on a go-forward basis). Although this may be a benefit to customers who take advantage of it, it may mean less app sales for developers along with higher costs to developers (e.g. for additional tech support to assist persons who didn't pay for the app, but rather obtained the app from their family at no cost), and therefore it may ultimately mean higher app prices for customers as various developers increase prices to recoup those costs. Regardless, it seems only right to us that this 'free app giveaway' should be voluntary on the developers' part, rather than forced on developers who cannot opt out. Do workers generally find it fair to be forced to give away their work product at no charge, especially if they may have to support it in the future at their own expense?
* Some apps may now be less visible to certain potential customers, resulting in fewer sales. For example, even though iPhone apps may run on an iPad, the App Store on an iPad may now divide apps into separate groupings in the App Store (iPhone & iPad), without allowing the user any option to view both groupings at the same time (the default setting of 'iPad' may mean the customer potentially will not notice all iPhone apps on their iPad, resulting in less visible choices for the customer and fewer sales for the developer).
* Apple introduced the concept of paid ads a while back, requiring developers to pay to have their app listed near the top of the screen in the App Store. Besides having to spend money for a listing that shouldn't be necessary if Apple's search options were better, and besides causing other apps to be pushed down the list in favor of paid ads, the ads themselves can be very costly to developers. For example, the 'suggested' bid for our latest ad actually exceeded the profit to be made from the app (we obviously opted to NOT go with the suggested bid or we would lose money on every app sale). Clearly, Apple's expensive advertising has to drive up costs for customers as well as developers who have to pay for the expensive advertising.
In addition to the above concerns, our troubles with Apple sharply escalated last year (2019) when we developed a series of 9 'Simple Note' apps. When the apps were first ready for submission, Apple's planned hardware obsolescence forced us to spend nearly $1,000 to replace our perfectly functional Apple computer (that we had purchased years back in order to develop for the iOS platform) just to submit the files to Apple. Thinking we would eventually recoup the investment from sales of the new apps, we proceeded to spend the money on a Mac computer - a computer that we really didn't want (and shouldn't have needed since the old one still functions perfectly well).
Anyways, we submitted the 9 'Simple Note' apps with our pricey new Mac computer (that is arguably as frustrating as the old Mac computer, albeit with even *less* storage space). These 'high visibility' apps (see the bright icons below), which were designed to highlight a certain type of note, were going to be sold individually, or at a reduced price in a bundle. The following is a sample of the 9 Simple Note app icons...
Although the apps are similar, they have distinct icons on the outside, and bold, distinct lettering inside the app to differentiate them. The apps can also be differentiated by color (there are 10 color options) and text size (there are 7 text size options from XS to XXXL). Note from the icons pictured above that it clearly would not be expedient to utilize any of the apps for any other use (for example, it would not be appropriate to use the "Simple Note: Pending" app to hold an "urgent" note).
The first app (Simple Note: Do Today) was approved by Apple without any issue. The other 8 apps were rejected by Apple *not* due to technical issues, but because Apple finds the similar apps to be a violation of their "spam" guideline (i.e. the nine apps are considered by Apple to be "the same" app), despite the fact that the apps in question do *not* violate Apple's written "spam" guideline (and are NOT "the same"), as Apple has admitted. We have appealed the decision twice, discussed the matter with Apple on the phone, and have written back and forth to Apple many, many times.
In the almost unbelievable series of communications with Apple concerning the rejected apps, Apple has repeatedly (seriously, over and over and over and over again...) failed to answer our questions. They delay for long periods of time and may repeatedly respond with generic messages (right down to the same typo). They constantly "parrot the party line", regardless of how erroneous or ridiculous it is. They do not seem to be willing to think or be moved by reason. Even when logic fails them, they will not budge. When they are 'cornered' with a question they can't answer (try here for a sample of some of our questions), they repeatedly ignore it, brush it off, or try to set up a call instead of answering in writing [we have been told by Apple that they would hang up on us if we recorded the call, yet Apple is allowed to record the call on their end (so we wouldn't be allowed to have a record of the call, even though Apple would have such a record)] - and this has occurred even though we've told them we require written communication. As to ignoring questions, this seems to be Apple's standard operating procedure in our case, no matter how politely and repetitively we've asked them for a direct answer to a simple question. They may try to end discussions abruptly without providing any answers. They may attempt to refuse further communication. They won't even answer simple 'yes' or 'no' questions that are asked over and over again. They fail to acknowledge repeated requests for a supervisor. They have been completely unreasonable (even refusing to allow us to pull the live app and put another app in its place!). Twice, they have even gone so far as to remove the comment box in the "Resolution Center" so that we could not further communicate with them about our rejected apps, despite the fact that their site says that...
"While your app is in the Rejected state, you can view app rejection details and ask for clarification directly in the Resolution Center"
And by the way, these comment boxes have remained missing for these two rejected apps.
All things considered, we feel that Apple has been unwilling to communicate with us 'in good faith' about our rejected apps.
Apple has also 'suggested' that we 'fix' the Simple Note apps by consolidating them all into one app with 'in-app' purchases, even though this would clearly destroy the apps' very reason for being (one only has to look at the icons above to understand why this wouldn't work).
We have pointed out how our apps do *not* violate their guidelines, even using Apple's own statements. We have also shown how other developers' apps have been approved even though their apps are even more similar to each other than our apps are. Yet Apple will not be moved.
In our opinion, Apple has been unreasonable and makes unreasonable demands (e.g. essentially requiring an app to be 'destroyed' in order to get it approved, their unwillingness to let a developer replace an app, requiring a developer to update multiple apps in only 30 days, etc.). Apple has also become very controlling (e.g. they can ultimately dictate how your final listing appears, they can force you to update perfectly functional apps at your expense, they can pull perfectly functional apps at any time for the 'crime' of not being updated, they can try to force you to change your apps' perfectly acceptable icons, and they can even try to make you change the entire functionality of your app, etc.). Apple still does not even allow developers to set their own app prices (developers have to choose from Apple's pricing options - e.g. $.99, $1.99, $2.99, etc.). We also find that Apple can be quite unfair (e.g. 'interpreting' written guidelines in ways which do not square with the plain meaning of words in order to reject our perfectly good apps, instead of just following the guidelines as written), and they have been 'extremely unaccommodating' (e.g. rejecting one developer's perfectly reasonable request for more time to update apps - even while they permit other developers' older apps to continue on in their store, refusing developer's requests to let apps be pulled & replaced, etc.). Ultimately, Apple decides what they like and what they don't like, instead of letting customers decide for themselves. If it was a matter of device security, that would be one thing, but in our case it has NOT at all been about security, but rather about what the 'emperor-king' Apple wants and doesn't want. Apple is free to unfairly reject perfectly functional and worthy apps without any real pushback. We see that Apple customers may have no clue regarding Apple's unwarranted infringement on their app purchasing freedom (we certainly were not very aware of this fact prior to recent events).
Ultimately, after a long time without receiving actual direct answers to our questions, we sent an email to Apple's Mr. Cook on 11/5/19 in the hope that he might consider interceding - or at least passing our request on to someone at Apple who might help. We never heard back from him or his office (not even a form letter response). On 11/7/19, we did finally receive (alas, unsuitable) answers to some - but not all - questions. However, the very day after we sent the message to Mr. Cook (on 11/6/19), we received a notice from Apple that two of our other (unrelated, perfectly functional and already approved apps) would be pulled from the App Store. Apple removed these two apps from the App Store in 12/19. A month later, we were advised that both of our Crucifix apps would also be pulled from the App Store. Like the other recently pulled apps, these Crucifix apps were perfectly functional and were already approved. Both Crucifix apps were subsequently pulled by Apple less than 20 days before Lent began. [BTW, we checked the App Store after our Crucifix apps were pulled and found that there were *no* other crucifix apps in Apple's App Store (there was a 'cross' app, but not a real crucifix app). So they pulled our two perfectly functional Crucifix apps when there weren't even any other comparable apps to be found in the entire App Store. How exactly does it benefit Apple's customers to entirely deny them Crucifix apps? How many persons subsequently 'quarantined' in the COVID pandemic might have been greatly comforted by and spiritually benefited from using our beautiful Crucifix apps?]
Please keep in mind that NONE of the apps were pulled by Apple for technical reasons. Rather, they were pulled merely because they had not been updated in a while (the aforementioned four pulled apps were last updated in late 2016). Like many other 'already-too-busy' small app developers, we plainly do not have the manpower & resources to regularly update our perfectly functioning apps - apps that don't even need any updating! - every few years simply because Apple says so (Apple, however, certainly does have the manpower & resources - and, IOHO, the responsibility - to ensure compatibility of older apps that it has sold to customers through its store). We would have rather created - and customers would have been more likely to benefit from our creating - new apps instead of being forced to update perfectly functional apps at our own expense. We sometimes can't help but feel we've been like 'slave' developers for Apple since we have to do all the work Apple forces us to do without payment for such work. But we digress...
In any event, the day after the last two of our apps were pulled (this being the THIRD time Apple pulled our apps for not being updated), we spent a little time skimming the App Store for older apps that still remain there even after Apple removed our 'old' apps (again, our apps were last updated in late 2016). We found well over a dozen apps significantly OLDER than ours - and this is by no means exhaustive. In fact, in less than an hour we found apps remaining in the App Store from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 1/2016 - all OLDER than our pulled apps (see image below for some examples, masked for privacy).
And had we continued the search, we are entirely certain that we would have found many, many more old apps in their store (we actually *did* find more than those pictured above).
This means that Apple has pulled our apps THREE separate times since 2016 for not being updated, yet others' older apps still remain in their store, NOT pulled by Apple. Pulling our unique & perfectly functional apps does not benefit customers. And, it seems unfair to us - who pay Apple each year - to have our perfectly functional apps pulled, especially since others' older apps still remain in their store.
In any event, we think the above clearly proves that Apple's 'required update' rules are selectively (or at least dissimilarly) applied to developers, just as we would argue that their app approval criteria has been dissimilarly applied to our recent apps (e.g. since other developers' apps have been approved even though their apps are even more similar to each other than our rejected apps are).
Whether or not we were personally singled out for this treatment by Apple, we cannot definitely prove at this time, but clearly Apple is NOT treating all developers the same as we have proved above. Please keep in mind that all apps pictured above are OLDER than our apps that Apple has already pulled. As indicated above, Apple has pulled our apps 3 times since 2016 for not being updated, yet others' older apps still remain in their store (apps that date back even to 2010!). How is that fair? Please also keep in mind that while Apple is pulling our apps from the App Store (but leaving others' older apps in the App Store), they are still charging us $99 per year for the privilege of being an iOS developer, plus 30% of all sales (not to mention advertising costs).
Eventually, seeing that we were going nowhere with Apple and reading that the Department of Justice had been reaching out to app developers regarding an investigation into Apple's anti-competitive behavior, we sent the DOJ some information. Our correspondence noted that "We have a variety of other concerns that would probably be resolved by the marketplace if Apple faced true competition." The following concerns were also listed...
* Apple seems to selectively apply their rules.
* Apple can be unreasonable, controlling, evasive, and otherwise mistreat developers and is usually not held accountable.
* Apple has power to reject & remove perfectly good & functional apps at any time with no recourse. Due to their monopoly, such apps cannot be sold outside their system. One can only imagine the wonderful apps that are not available to customers because of Apple's monopoly!
* Apple can 'make or break' apps by failing to display them even to customers who search for them and by forcing developers to try [to compete] against other developers who can afford to pay Apple's exorbitant advertising fees (e.g. ad prices that are higher than the expected profit).
* Apple has the power to force developers to update apps at the developers' expense in a time frame that may be inadequate for proper updates. This 'Apple-bullying' may result in rushed updates & higher prices - neither of which benefit customers.
* Apple has power to 'force' various things onto developers. For example, developers have been forced into two-factor authorization (even if developers don't want it) and have essentially been forced (at their own expense) to learn an entirely new & continuously evolving programming language that may have no value outside their own platform. The latter has the potential of driving up costs for consumers.
* Even a developer cannot use their own apps over the long term unless Apple approves them and allows them in their App Store. In the above mentioned situation with our 8 rejected apps, we requested a path to at least purchase our other 8 apps for our internal use, but Apple rejected our request. We even offered to pull the apps in succession so that only one was live at a time, but this reasonable request was denied by Apple.
As we stated to the DOJ, "All in all, we feel that Apple's monopoly power serves to drive up costs, harm developers, and reduce customer choices. We believe Apple's behavior would never be able to continue over the long term if they had to face fair competition."
To our customers, we are very sorry that it has come to this. We are quite sad that our good Catholic apps & other worthy apps - apps that we have spent so much time on - will not be available to customers. We have held on as long as we can, but things have reached the 'breaking point' for us. We do hope that in the future regulators may make it possible to support the iOS platform outside of the 'Apple ecosystem'. We think Apple customers may be surprised (and even potentially outraged) about all the worthy choices & features Apple has taken away from them over the years without their consent or consultation.
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