Apple has announced a number of new developer initiatives, services and tools on its developer website. Most of what the company has listed are enhancements to the standard offerings it advertises at its ongoing developer conference. However, a line item appears to be a direct response to the recent controversy about the Dropbox-mentioned app store guidelines, which we wrote about in detail last week.
In the future, Cupertino will no longer troubleshoot policy violations unless there are legal concerns. Apple also says it will offer new channels for developers to contest its judgments.
Apple came under fire after refusing a bugfix update for the Hey email app created by Basecamp. Apple informed the developers of the app that the app must contain Apple's own system for in-app purchases, otherwise there is a risk that it will be taken by the app. Apple also claimed it should have initially rejected the app, but only noticed the problem when reviewing the troubleshooting filing.
Basecamp's CTO went to Twitter with a passionate thread accusing Apple of criminal behavior for insisting on a cut in app revenue. The tweet thread triggered numerous discussions, not only about Apple's revenue from apps, but also about the company's failure to make the App Store guidelines transparent and consistent.
Here are Apple's words on the developer website today:
There are also two changes to the app review process that will be implemented this summer. First, developers can not only contest decisions about whether an app violates a particular app store review guideline policy, but also have a mechanism to contest the policy itself. Second, for apps that are already in the App Store, bug fixes for policy violations are no longer delayed, except for those related to legal issues. Instead, developers can fix the issue the next time they submit it.
Developers will surely appreciate the change regarding updates that consist of bug fixes. The rest of Apple's statement seems to suggest that the company is opening new avenues for discussion with developers about App Store review guidelines and specific judgments Apple makes on that basis.
How that will look is unclear, however. It is also unclear whether this will result in actual policy changes or enforcement. More details will likely be released when the changes are released later this summer. However, Apple is currently only telling developers to listen.
Last week, Apple SVP Phil Schiller TechCrunch gave an interview defending Apple's policies, saying that there will be no changes to the actual policies in response to complaints about Hey's situation. Still, Apple approved the Hey app after Basecamp submitted a version of the app that minimally followed Apple's guidelines. The dispute is likely to continue.
The other new initiatives, services, and tools that Apple mentioned in its article today include clip and widget explanations, access to new or enhanced APIs and frameworks such as ARKit, a new StoreKit tool that developers use to plan monetization can, as well as details on Xcode redesign, new functions in SwiftUI, extended functions for Catalyst and information on new data protection requirements.