Is Apple getting ready to crack down on iOS apps that help you find other apps? That’s the word going around in the tech world, at least, after Apple booted AppGratis from its store.
AppGratis is kind of like a Groupon for iPhone and iPad apps. The folks behind AppGratis work with other softwaremakers to reduce their prices or give their apps away. AppGratis then sends out a daily notification to its users, telling them about the deals.
As All Things Digital reports, AppGratis violates a couple of Apple’s developer guidelines. One: “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.” Two: “Apps cannot use push notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind.”
The removal of AppGratis is apparently just the start, as Apple may now be looking to purge other apps that serve a similar purpose. Although Apple’s enforcement of the above policies has been inconsistent before, that’s about to change, All Things D’s unnamed sources claim.
This could be an issue for frugal shoppers. Apple’s own store doesn’t have a built-in way to find temporary sales or promotions. Apps like AppGratis provide a valuable service by pointing you to deals you might otherwise miss.
Apple’s problem, according to All Things D, is that these apps can be confusing if they look and behave too much like the App Store. And in the case of AppGratis, which organizes its own promotions, it encourages developers to pay their way to more downloads, which in turn sends them higher up the App Store’s own charts.
I don’t entirely buy those explanations. For one thing, users aren’t confused that easily by apps with duplicate functionality. They certainly knew the difference between Google Maps and Apple Maps, and I’m guessing they’d know the difference between the App Store and an app whose primary purpose is to hunt down good deals. As for gaming the App Store charts, that already happens without the assistance of promotional apps. See, for instance, Electronic Arts’ practice of slashing prices on iOS games before the holidays, ensuring that it dominates the sales charts while new store submissions are frozen.
But it’s Apple’s store, and while I’d prefer that Apple let these apps stick around, it’s not a major loss if they get the boot. You can always use the Web to find app deals on sites like AppShopper (which incidentally was kicked out of the App Store in December) and on AppGratis’ own website.
Also, it’s not clear whether Apple will remove apps that provide a different enough experience, like TouchArcade, whose game listings include the site’s own editorial reviews, or AppsFire, which offers its own scores and personalized recommendations. My guess is that the most valuable and unique discovery apps will get to stick around, as long as they’re not abusing push notifications.
Still, now might be a good time to download a few, lest they get added to the pile of useful apps you can’t get anymore.