Apple’s Repeated Rejection of Hey Calendar App Reveals Ongoing App Store Controversy

In what was supposed to be a fresh start for Hey, a premium email service, the company faced another blow from Apple. Hey had recently announced the integration of a brand new calendar feature, which was met with excitement. However, just 72 hours after the announcement, co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson received the disheartening news that Apple was rejecting their standalone iOS app for Hey Calendar. The reason for rejection? Non-paying users were unable to perform any actions upon opening the app.

The rejection itself was not entirely surprising, as it mirrored a similar incident that occurred almost four years ago, when Apple rejected Hey’s first iOS app for their email service for the exact same reason. The rejection process remains largely unchanged, with Apple contacting the developers and softly suggesting that they either comply with Apple’s demands or face the consequences. This rejection tactic has drawn criticism from various developers who feel mistreated by Apple’s dominance in the marketplace.

Apple’s App Store rules have long been a subject of debate and controversy. While the company requires most paid services to offer in-app payment options, allowing Apple to claim a generous 30 percent cut, there are exceptions. Reader apps like Spotify and Kindle, for example, are allowed to bypass this requirement. This inconsistency in enforcing the rules has sparked antitrust fights in multiple countries, further raising questions about Apple’s control over the app distribution ecosystem.

The rejection of Hey’s standalone iOS app for Hey Calendar has once again highlighted the subjectivity of Apple’s rules. While some carve-outs have been made in certain cases, such as free companion apps to certain types of paid web services, the list of exceptions does not explicitly include a calendar app. This leaves Hey in a precarious position, unsure of how to navigate Apple’s stringent regulations.

A Creative Solution

After days of back-and-forth between Apple’s App Store Review Board and Basecamp, the team behind Hey, a compromise was reached. Apple’s executive Phil Schiller offered a solution that allowed Hey to offer a free option for the iOS app. New users could now sign up directly through the app but with a unique twist. Upon signing up, they would receive a free, temporary randomized email address that remained active for 14 days. After the 14-day period, users would then be required to pay to upgrade their account. However, the process of paying for an account can only be done through the browser.

This resolution showcased the flexibility Apple can exercise when pressured by developers, but it also underscored the arbitrary nature of their decisions. Hey was forced to change their business model to comply with Apple’s demands, even though other apps with similar functionalities were not subjected to the same requirements. This raises concerns about Apple’s ability to dictate the terms and conditions of app development and distribution.

Despite the compromise, Hey remains determined to challenge Apple’s decision. The exact path they will take in their fight against Apple remains unclear. However, this incident highlights a broader issue within the app development community, where many developers feel unfairly treated and subject to Apple’s whims. The ongoing antitrust battles only amplify these concerns, as regulators worldwide scrutinize Apple’s control over the App Store.

Apple’s repeated rejection of Hey’s apps shines a spotlight on the deep-seated controversies surrounding the App Store. The arbitrary enforcement of rules, the lack of transparency, and the power Apple wields over developers have prompted calls for greater regulation and competition within the app distribution market. Whether these changes will come to fruition remains uncertain, but what is clear is that the tension between Apple and developers like Hey will persist until a fairer and more balanced approach is adopted.


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