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Developers Upset Apple Removing Outdated But Working Apps

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Apple may be doing some spring cleaning in its App Store, as the Cupertino, California-based tech giant recently notified several developers that apps that have not been “updated in a significant amount of time” will soon be removed from the marketplace — reports The Verge.

The email, titled “App Improvement Notice,” informs developers that they have just 30 days to update old apps before they are booted off the App Store.

“You can keep this app available for new users to discover and download from the App Store by submitting an update for review in 30 days,” Apple writes in the email. “If no update is submitted in 30 days, the app will be removed from sale.”

If a developer fails to meet the deadline and their app is removed from the App Store, any users who have previously downloaded it will still have it on their devices and be able to use it.

Several app makers, including Protopop Games developer Robert Kabwe, have criticized the move. According to a tweet from Kabwe, Apple is threatening to remove his fully-functional game, Motivoto, from the App Store because it hasn’t been updated since March 2019.

Some mobile apps, especially games, exist in a “complete” state, and it could therefore be argued that they don’t require updates to enrich the user experience. Plus, updating apps on a regular basis requires time and money — making it impractical for resource-crunched indie devs. “This is an unfair barrier to indie devs.,” said Kabwe.

App developer, researcher, and self-described “professional App Store critic,” Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) said Apple booted a version of this FlickType Apple Watch keyboard designed for the visually impaired from the App Store because it hadn’t been updated in two years.

Eleftheriou also identified the once-super-popular Pocket God, which still remains on the App Store despite not having been updated since 2015.

Developer Emilia Lazer-Walker also said in a tweet that Apple is removing “a few” of her older games from the App Store. “Games can exist as completed objects” posits Lazer-Walker. “These free projects aren’t suitable for updates or a live service model, they’re finished artworks from years ago.”

Apple’s App Store Improvements page states: “We are implementing an ongoing process of evaluating apps, removing apps that no longer function as intended, don’t follow current review guidelines, or are outdated.”

Apple’s App Store rules are far from perfect, however, and have been heavily slammed for themselves being outdated over the years.

The iPhone maker also said back in 2016 that it would start removing abandoned apps from the App Store and that developers would have 30 days to update their apps before they would be booted off.

However, it’s unclear whether Apple has continuously been enforcing this rule over the years, or if the company has recently shifted its attention toward this issue and is conducting a wider sweep.

Apple doesn’t even clearly define what makes an app “outdated” — whether it’s based on the time since an app received its last update, or if it concerns compatibility with the most recent version of iOS.

Earlier this month, Google announced it would be taking similar measures over on the Play Store, with plans to begin limiting the visibility of apps that “don’t target an API level within two years of the latest major Android release version.” Android developers have until November 1st, 2022 to update their apps, though, and Google also allows them the option to apply for a six-month extension if they can’t meet the deadline.

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