Apple removed an app called Launcher from the App Store late Friday night, and the circumstances surrounding the app’s removal have left its creator scratching his head.
Launcher was originally designed to help save its users time by creating one-tap shortcuts to popular actions on your iPhone that might take a few taps. By inputting a URL or selecting an app from the list, you could create shortcuts for actions like calling your wife, placing a FaceTime call, or composing a tweet.
But the best part about Launcher was how it used the new iOS 8 widgets feature to let you execute these commands with a single tap. Launcher creatively used Apple’s new widgets system to place these shortcuts within easy reach, housing them right in your iPhone’s Notification Center.
“The whole point of Launcher was that iOS 8 was allowing this new functionality with widgets,” Launcher founder Greg Gardner told Business Insider. “I thought it was kind of a game changer. My plan was to get out as fast as possible, to be first to market.”
Gardner’s plan worked: Launcher launched the same day as iOS 8, and Gardner says the app quickly took off, leading to hundreds of emails from users saying they loved the app and its time-saving nature.
The launch was also the first time Gardner had heard of any potential issues Apple may have with the app, when an Apple employee in developer relations contacted Gardner to say he wasn’t sure that Launcher was even supposed to release, and that he would check on its status and get back to him.
The news came as a surprise to Gardner, who had already seen the app approved.
“They were unsure themselves if they were going to allow the widget functionality or not,” said Gardner. “They had to debate it internally.”
A few days went by, and Gardner says it wasn’t until Sept. 23 that he heard back from Apple. They told him that they had decided the unique use of the iPhone’s widgets was not to be allowed, and that Gardner could either remove the functionality from Launcher or see the app removed from the App Store.
Gardner, who felt like Apple’s indecision would rob users of his app of their favourite core feature, attempted to compromise by forcing the shortcut widget to first hop back into the Launcher app before executing the widget’s action.
“I thought there was a chance that that may be a decent compromise. There’s nothing in the official documentation that says a widget can’t launch other apps,” Gardner said. “It doesn’t explicitly say it can’t call to other apps. Maybe they thought it was implied, maybe they forgot to put it in.”
Gardner submitted the update between 4:30 and 5 p.m. PT, thinking that Apple would take a few days to review the update, which would also give him some more time to figure out his next move.
Instead, Apple quickly rejected the new update, and removed Launcher entirely from the App Store late Friday night.
“I don’t think it was a coincidence that it was so late on Friday night,” Gardner said, suggesting that Apple chose to act fast so as to prevent media outlets from hearing about the app’s removal.
Even with Launcher’s removal from the App Store, those lucky enough to download the app are still able to use it and its unique widget functionality. Launcher users won’t be able to upgrade to the Pro version for additional features, but the core functionality still exists, and Gardner intends to keep supporting the app for as long as he can.
In the meantime, Gardner is sticking to his guns, hoping that if enough people complain about Apple’s indecisive rules, the company might allow Launcher’s return. He’s even been involved in creating an online Change.org petition requesting Apple revise its widget rules.
But Gardner is still disillusioned from the experience, and said that this could be the end of his developing apps for iOS. Though with no experience with Android, he’s still hoping that he can continue with Launcher if it returns.
“It’s hard to say, it’s still early. My gut reaction is if Apple doesn’t change their mind on this in the near future, then yeah I don’t know why I’d continue to develop for a system that makes unilateral decisions like this and can shut down something that people loved and that I put a lot of hard work into,” said Gardner. “They seem to be disregarding the desires of their users. That kind of attitude is not sitting well.”
You can reach more about Gardner’s battle to keep Launcher alive over at the official Launcher website.
Business Insider has reached out to Apple for comment and will update this article when we hear back.
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