Just 5 days after approving it, Apple pulls AppGratis from the App Store

Just 5 days after approving it, Apple pulls AppGratis from the App Store
Apple is always quick to talk up its approval process for apps submitted to the iTunes App Store, but that doesn't stop the company from making some odd moves after an app has slipped through. We've seen a few apps get pulled because they showed some form of "objectionable" content, even if the point of the app was to bring light to objectionable acts in our world. Then there are cases like that of AppGratis, which was approved by Apple, then removed from the App Store after just 5 days.

AppGratis has been a bona fide hit. Two months ago, CEO Simon Dawlat gathered $13.5 million in venture funding. Recently, the app hit milestones of $1 million in revenue in a month, and 10 million users. AppGratis basically gives users a free app each day, and has been successful enough to drive upwards of 1 million new installs for the day's featured app. Of course, that same success may have brought on the heat from Apple.

Unclear problems 

Apple has only cited two reasons why the app was pulled from iTunes, rule 2.25 which states: "Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected"; and, rule 5.6 which states: "Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind."

According to Dawlat though, the reasons he was given were a bit different. He was given the rule 2.25, but he was also cited two others: rule 2.12 which said that the app was "not very useful" or didn't "provide any lasting entertainment value"; and, rule 2.20 which said there were too many versions of the app, and the different regional versions should all be combined into one. That last problem is certainly one that could be sorted out fairly easily, it's the other two that could be more trouble. 

Rule 2.12 seems like the catch-all guideline that could cover just about anything. Given the number of users and traffic the app pushes, it seems hard to argue that it isn't useful. And, with all of the various apps in the App Store that do nothing but play an annoying sound, it's not like Apple has set the bar too high on the "lasting entertainment value" side of things. Rule 2.25 is also troublesome, because there are other apps that provide similar functionality, like AppHero and Free Apps for a Rainy Day that are still available in the App Store. 

Too big, too fast?

The iPhone version of AppGratis has been available in the App Store since November 2012, and the iPad version of the app was approved by Apple just last week. In addition to the various guidelines that AppGratis may have infringed upon, the app's success itself may be an issue. According to Onavo numbers, AppGratis had 4.6 percent share of the iPhone app discovery market in February 2013. That doesn't sound like much, but that's up from under 1 percent share in December 2012, and 4.6 percent is about 3 times the share as the next most popular discovery apps on iPhone. 

The question comes in how AppGratis may have generated the market share it has. There have been accusations from competitors that AppGratis has engaged in automatic downloads, or "bot farming". This is a practice where a developer pays a company for downloads, and a bot will run automatic downloads of an app. Depending on how much you're willing to pay, you can get about 10,000 downloads for about $1,000, or get to the Top 50 apps for around $5,000. Of course, those accusations haven't had any real evidence behind them. It's more a matter that many apps in the discovery market tend to use this shady practice, so it's an accusation that gets tossed around a fair amount. And, not surprisingly, Dawlat has denied any shady practices.

Trying again

Dawlat has said that the team is working towards fixing the app, but it's unclear whether or not that will really help anything. Apple has said that the company is welcome to resubmit the app, but hasn't given too much hope that its position will change on the matter. Apple has even gone so far as to note that AppGratis can still use its website to refer users to apps. That probably isn't much solace to the venture capital funders that have backed the company though. 

The last time an app discovery tool gained this much popularity in the App Store, it was Chomp, which Apple ended up purchasing, killing the apps for iOS and Android, and folding the technology into the App Store's built-in recommendation engine. That doesn't seem too likely in this case. 

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16 Comments

1. Alberto.GM

Posts: 10; Member since: Mar 14, 2013

Evil Apple Blockin everything that doesn´t fit in their closed minds

3. Mxyzptlk unregistered

If they were blocking it, they wouldn't have approved it.

6. Hemlocke unregistered

You mean stuff like AdBlock?

16. dmakun

Posts: 382; Member since: Jun 06, 2011

Dude, I'd suggest you use the said app first and "make up your own mind" whether or not Apple is in FACT doing the right thing by banning this app. Sometimes it seems people call Apple/IOS users 'sh**p' for a reason.

2. Mxyzptlk unregistered

There's over 1 million+ apps in the App Store. That shows testament to people who negatively views how Apple policies their App Store. It's simple - Obey the terms and you want get booted. It's no different than a carrier kicking you off their network for not following the terms of service.

12. jacko1977

Posts: 428; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

and 900,000 are crap

13. ZeroCide

Posts: 816; Member since: Jan 09, 2013

and 999,999+ are crap *fixed*

4. osaFromJava

Posts: 35; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

wow... is it from Indonesia??

8. Yaldo_27

Posts: 28; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

Bukan, itu Perancis :P

9. osaFromJava

Posts: 35; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

hmm kok pake bhs Indonesia... jangan2 suaminya Anggun C Sasmi...heheheh

10. Yaldo_27

Posts: 28; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

Bukan, ini bapaknya heheheh

11. forzanetti

Posts: 9; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

"gratis" is also a word in the English language. It carries the same meaning (free of charge) as it does in Bahasa Indonesia

15. artealis

Posts: 98; Member since: Dec 15, 2010

The English term gratis has its origins in late Middle English; from Latin. A contraction of gratiis, meaning 'as a kindness', which in turn stems from the root gratia meaning 'grace' or 'kindness'.[1] It is widely used in the Afrikaans, Catalan, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Indonesian, Scandinavian and German languages, with the same meaning

5. Nkolsen

Posts: 60; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

Lol another good example of apples nazi methods....

7. Hemlocke unregistered

Yes, never would Google block a class of app, like ad blockers, because they interfere with gathering and monetizing your data, or delete 60k apps they just deem "low quality."

14. rabih_z

Posts: 45; Member since: Nov 02, 2012

i got this app on the first day of its launch, very useful.... its a shame that they ban it

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