Apple App Store appears to be removing outdated apps on a large scale

Apple can crack down on apps that no longer receive updates. In an email with screenshot Sent to affected developers, titled “App Improvement Notice,” Apple warns that it will remove apps from the App Store that have not been updated “in a significant amount of time” and give developers only 30 days to update them.

“You can keep this app available for new users to discover and download from the App Store by submitting an update for review within 30 days,” Apple wrote in the email. “If no update is submitted within 30 days, the app will be pulled from sale.” While Apple will remove the outdated apps from the App Store, all previously downloaded apps will remain on users’ devices.

I feel sick. Apple just emailed me saying they are removing my free game Motivoto because it is over 2 years old.

It is part of their app improvement system.

This isn’t cool. 2000 console games are still for sale.

This is an unfair barrier for indie developers.

— Protopop games (@protopop) Apr 23, 2022

A number of app makers, such as Protopop Games developer Robert Kabwe, have expressed concerns about the change. kabwe says on Twitter that Apple is threatening to remove its fully-featured game Motivoto because it hasn’t been updated since March 2019.

Meanwhile, Kosta Eleftheriou, the developer of the FlickType Apple Watch keyboard, has says Apple has removed a version of its app made especially for the visually impaired because it hasn’t been updated in two years. As Eleftheriou points out in his tweet, the once-popular Pocket God app still remains in the App Store, even though it received its last update in 2015. Developer Emilia Lazer-Walker also reported that Apple is removing “a few” of its older games from the App Store. Multiple other developers share the same experience, noting that they just haven’t had time to update their apps.

@Apple removes some of my old games because they “have not been updated in a significant amount of time”

Games can exist as completed objects! These free projects are not suitable for updates or a live service model, they are finished works of art from years ago.

— emilia ✨ (@lazerwalker) Apr 23, 2022

On Apple’s App Store Improvements page, the company says, “We’re implementing an ongoing process of evaluating apps, removing apps that no longer work as intended, don’t meet current review guidelines, or are outdated.” There’s no timestamp on the page, so it’s not immediately clear when Apple published or last updated the post. Apple did not immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment.

In 2016, Apple said it would start removing abandoned apps from the App Store. At the time, it also warned developers that they would have 30 days to update their app before removing it. That said, it’s unclear whether Apple has continually enforced this rule over the years, or whether it has recently stepped up its scrutiny. Apple also doesn’t clearly outline what it considers “outdated” — whether it’s based on the time elapsed since an app was last updated, or whether it’s compatibility with the most recent version of iOS.

critics of this policy state that mobile apps must remain available regardless of age, just as old video games remain playable on consoles. Others say: the policy is unnecessarily strict for developers, and claim Apple doesn’t fully respect the work that goes into indie games.

Earlier this month, the Google Play Store similarly announced that it would start limiting the visibility of apps that “don’t target an API level within two years of the latest major Android release”. Android developers have until November 1, 2022 to update their apps, but also have the option to request a six-month extension if they don’t meet the deadline. With both major app stores working hard on older apps, this could leave some developers, especially indie studios, struggling to keep up.

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