Launcher, one of the best time-saving apps out there, is returning to the App Store six months after Apple removed it without warning.
Shortly after Apple’s iOS 8 came out, developer Greg Gardner released a creative new app called Launcher that allowed you to launch apps and shortcuts right from your iPhone’s lock screen using the new widgets feature.
Think of a widget as an interactive icon that appears in your notification drawer.
People were excited about Launcher because it saved you time — instead of unlocking your phone and tapping through apps, you could easily press a button from your iPhone’s notification center and jump right into an app, call your mum, or get directions home.
Apple, however, decided that Launcher’s use of widgets didn’t follow its guidelines, and eventually removed Launcher from the App Store despite Gardner’s attempts to alter the app’s functionality to Apple’s liking.
“They were unsure themselves if they were going to allow the widget functionality or not,” Gardner told Business Insider last year. “They had to debate it internally.”
After Apple removed Launcher from the App Store, Gardner started a petition on Change.org and considered never developing for Apple again after the debacle.
Widgets are a new territory for Apple — there aren’t too many apps that support that functionality, and Apple is still figuring out the guidelines for how widgets should work in iOS. Over the last six months, however, more apps have begun to take advantage of widgets, and Apple has slowly begun to loosen its restrictions.
Gardner noticed this, and decided to try and re-submit Launcher to the App Store.
“I got good encouragement from people,” Gardner tells Business Insider. “Launcher users were saying it was such a shame, and I talked to some developer friends who were saying nothing but nice things such as ‘It’s not every day you create an app that’s so successful and well-loved, maybe you should keep it going.”
Before re-submitting Launcher for App Store approval, Gardner tried to introduce a scaled-back version of the app that it hoped would meet Apple’s guidelines. But Apple initially rejected this version of the app too.
Gardner was able to successfully appeal the rejection and get the decision reversed by Apple’s review board. He then submitted the original build of Launcher, which Apple approved.
“So I said, ‘So you guys changed your mind then?'” said Gardner. “And Apple says ‘Yeah, we’re not going to reject it for the same reasons as before.'”
So, six months later, Launcher is back, with no compromises and a few new features. You can still create one-tap shortcuts to open up apps, websites, or jump right into composing a tweet or messaging your friend, but there’s no longer a widget designated to a sponsored advertiser.
There’s also a Pro version of Launcher for $US3.99 that allows you add more than two rows of widget buttons and also lets you remove the text labelling and resize the buttons.
Launcher also works with one of our favourite productivity apps, Workflow, allowing you to turn Workflow tasks into a widget button as well.
More importantly, though, Launcher’s return to the App Store marks a victory for developers who have long been confused by Apple’s spotty enforcement of its already vague guidelines. Apple might have a tendency to remove apps while it figures out what it will and won’t allow, but Launcher’s return shows that persistence can pay off.
Launcher will be available in the App Store starting tomorrow, and you’ll be able to download it when it goes live by clicking here.