Apple Explains Why Outdated Apps Disappear from the App Store

Posted on May 3, 2022 by Laurent Giret in Apple, Mobile, iOS with 20 Comments

Apple App Store

Apple recently caused some confusion among developers after some of them were notified that their apps could be removed from the App Store. In its emails to developers, Apple explained that apps that had not received an update in a “significant amount of time” would need to be updated within 30 days, otherwise the company would remove them from the App Store.

The company has since clarified its stance regarding outdated apps in a press release published last week (via Ars Technica), and it’s giving developers a little relief. First of all, the company said that it has removed almost 2.8 million apps from the App Store since 2016, which is when Apple launched a process to “remove apps that no longer function as intended, don’t follow current review guidelines or are outdated.”

Apple says that this “App Store Improvements process” has improved discoverability, security, privacy, and user experience on the App Store. According to the company, it’s using two criteria for identifying apps that could face a possible removal from the App Store:

  • The app has not been updated within the last three years.
  • The app has failed to meet a “minimal download threshold” during a rolling 12-month period.

The developers of apps meeting these two criteria will receive an email from Apple warning them that their app is outdated and could be removed from the App Store, but developers can still appeal. Previously, Apple was only giving 30 days to developers to respond to removal notice and update their apps, but the company has now bumped this delay to 90 days. “Apps that are removed will continue to function as normal for users who have already downloaded the app on their device,” the company also said.

Apple is right to believe that removing outdated apps on its App Store can lead to a better user experience, and other app stores like the Microsoft Store on Windows PCs probably need some house cleaning as well. However, is it really realistic to expect small developers to regularly update apps that work just fine? And is it also fair to remove perfectly working apps that get very few downloads? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Comments (20)

20 responses to “Apple Explains Why Outdated Apps Disappear from the App Store”

  1. will

    I find this 100% reasonable. If you have not updated your app in 3 years, that to me feels like coasting. Even the smallest update to the platform support would be considered an update. Plus, Apple adds a second criteria of having a very low download count over 12 months.


    So if you want to keep your app in the store, update. and I might suggest improve, the app.

    • lvthunder

      So you don't think an app ever is just done. We should be changing apps just to be changing them.


      Sure change them if the platform changes causing things to break, but if the app still works and it does everything it should do then why change it? You are still paying Apple $99 a year for all your apps to be in the store. So it's not abandoned.

      • red.radar

        Apple is not saying you have to add features. However, evidence of maintenance and download activity in the app store are the requirement.


        So lets say you make the best Calculator app, which I can imagine doesn't need a lot of maintenance... If it is getting a lot of repeat downloads and app store activity, Apple will leave it alone.


        I think its reasonable for Apple to prune the dead weight from the platform. Even then...I don't think they are deleting it they are just suppressing discovery and future "new" downloads.

      • unkinected

        That's why there's an appeal process. The developer gets an email and 90 days to respond. If there is legitimate yet small usage for your app and no need for updates, you can make that case. But I think in the vast majority of cases, these are indeed apps that have been abandoned and most email entreaties will never receive responses. With a system like this you need an automatic sweeping process.

      • navarac

        Too right. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    • jason_e

      I agree. I know this does not apply to every app but there is a very good chance if you have not updated your app in 3 years you have abandoned it.

  2. Stabitha.Christie

    Apple has been doing this for the last six years but for whatever reason the press has decided it is news.

  3. sonichedgehog360

    > "However, is it really realistic to expect small developers to regularly update apps that work just fine?"

    No

    > "And is it also fair to remove perfectly working apps that get very few downloads?"

    No

  4. Daekar

    I guess I am just old fashioned, but this does seem stupid to me. Are they really screwing with their platform so much that apps need to be updated just to keep working after they reach a finished state?

    • ralfred

      No, not really. If your app is not adapted to newest hardware (like screen size) or software policies (like privacy policies), then the app might not look correctly or not have the correct privacy info.


      Apple does not want a bad app experience for people.


      If your app is old and not get a lot of downloads but works perfectly, you could get a removal warning from Apple, and then you can request Apple that they should not remove the app. If you can't take your time to do this, then your app might not be that important.

  5. madthinus

    I guess if we apply this logic, I should not be playing Quake tonight because it has not been updated in years.


    • dftf

      While I see the point you're trying to make, Quake is a bad-example to pick as it, along with DOOM and Wolfenstein3D had their source-codes released. As-such, the fan-community is able to make modern "source-ports", which allow the games to run on modern systems (such as creating a 64-bit front-end), or even fixing mapping bugs, changing textures, fixing translation issues and so-on.


      So you can still play these apps today precisely because a community still does update them!

  6. randallcorn

    OK


    I see this.

    But if I created a checkers app then what else do I need to add to it? Cats just so it will not be deleted?

    I do see that the developer gets a warning though.

  7. nbplopes

    What is the minimum download number?

  8. LT1 Z51

    If you have to recompile and rebuild once every 3 years to me this seems like a reasonable outlay even for the smallest developer. Lots of sub-components update every 3 years, it just makes sense.


    The minimum download threshold though I think is more concerning. Who cares how many people download it? You pay to keep it in the store, so that's how Apple can mitigate your cost.

  9. Ruvger

    I'm a small app developer and recompiling and resubmitting an app is a pain, but the platform is constantly moving on so its not an unreasonable expectation on Apples part.

  10. thalter

    This is not without precedent - Recall that Apple nuked every 32-bit app in the app store a few years back, as only 64-bit app are supported on the newest iOS versions.


    Once every three years is not an unreasonable request to update your app. Update your dependencies (which you should be doing anyway to mitigate vulnerabilities), increment your version number, build, publish and call it done. Not hard.

    • sibrowne

      The difference is that Apple didn't give developers just 30 days to update to 64 bit, it was around 6-12 months.


      I don't know if you are a software developer or not, but updating dependencies on an app that hasn't been updated in over 3 years is definitely not "Not hard".


      The best case is that you spend the afternoon hitting 'build' and chasing through API calls that have been renamed or where parameters have changed.


      Worst case is that a dependency is no longer supported in the latest version of Xcode and you have to completely rewrite any code that used it.


      To me, it sounds like Apple is trying to weed out anyone that built their app on a version of Xcode or a Mac that's no longer supported. I wouldn't be surprised if in the next few months we see a bunch of perfectly good Macs no longer compatible with the latest Xcode.


      Despite what Apple would like us to believe, it is not developer-friendly. It hates the fact that 3rd party developers are what make its platform worthwhile.

  11. Jeffsters

    Pretty simple! In 90 days, a comment, recompile, upload. Set a three year reminder. Done!