Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Pagi Rejected From the App Store

Lucas (Mastodon, Hacker News):

I found my submission rejected with the following message citing guideline 4.3 Design: Spam of the App Store Review Guidelines[…] I can see how Pagi is similar to other apps in the App Store as it features a full screen text editor, if you dismiss its unique features designed for the morning pages use-case.

The claim that it ‘appears to be similar to another app previously submitted under a terminated Apple Developer Program account’ doesn’t make sense to me. ‘Terminated’ also means that the previously submitted app is not on the App Store anymore. So even if it did appear similar, it shouldn’t be a problem and, by definition, can’t be a duplicate.


They don’t give direction on what to change or improve to get Pagi approved. Instead, they told me to abandon the entire project and start from scratch with another app. Completely dismissing user demand [Users of the Mac version wanted it on iPad.] and all the time it took to build this app.

Apparently, that development time would have been better spent writing yet another authenticator app.

Christopher Atlan:

My sources tell me Google has successfully inserted provocateur agents inside Apples App Review team. They are exceeding their goal to discourage indie devs, making these remarkable apps for the Apple platforms.


Update (2023-03-01): Duncan Babbage:

I think you may have been caught up in the wake of an unrelated bad actor.


My strong expectation is this will have been based on analysis of either screenshot or more likely source code similarities automatically flagged in their system for the reviewer, as part of their processes to try and stop bad actors from just creating new accounts and resubmitting when their developer accounts are terminated.


I see all the iOS dev work on the app right up to two weeks ago is also publicly accessible. So it’s quite possible that a bad actor took your recent work and attempted to submit their own iPad app based on it, before your submission.

Duncan Babbage:

I have learned to pay close attention to the word “Specifically,” in a rejection. Relevant here.

Often, the text that precedes the “Specifically” in the same paragraph seems quite clearly irrelevant or even demonstrably wrong for the submission in question. I think it is the boilerplate description from a parent category.

Often the text that comes after “Specifically” is giving much more important information (whether you like it or not) that is much easier to understand when you try to make sense of it after discarding and ignoring the information that came before that word.

Patrick Smith:

They don’t tell Ed Sheeran that his new album is derivative, and so reject it from Apple Music and tell him to make another one. So why do they do that with apps?


I don’t really understand how it happened yet, but I woke up to Pagi being accepted, without any further notice.

Maybe the right eyes saw it and waved it through. I don’t know.


I received a call from them in the afternoon today. They were very nice and clarified the reason for initial rejection. I will write more about it tomorrow.

The short version is that someone seemed to have uploaded a version of Pagi before me. This was possible, because I developed it in public on GitHub.

Update (2023-03-03): Lucas:

The review team initially upheld the rejection, because the information of evidence they found on their side was very obvious. The case eventually got escalated internally, and they were able to verify that I was the original author of the app and accepted my submission.

In case I have the feeling I am in a situation like this again, I should submit an appeal to App Review.

After everything that happened, I am impressed how quickly they acted after they verified that I am the original author. They called me on the same day to apologize and clarify the situation. I appreciate that.


I think it’s a good thing Apple has this process of checking for duplicates to identify bad actors in the App Store. This definitely serves developers, but their communication could have been better. They should have pointed out ways to verify my authenticity instead of the vague messages they sent me.

Update (2023-03-08): Rob Jonson:

Next level AppStore rejection.

2019, Apple refused my attempt to release MultiMonitorWallpaper 2 as a new app.

Today, a minor update to MultiMonitorWallpaper (live since 2012) was rejected “too much like other apps I released”.

They list ‘unused MMW2’ which was never released.

6 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

I cannot wait until closed app stores are regulated away.

I cannot understand how anyone justifies the risk of developing an app for Apple’s stores. After development, Apple can simply reject the app outright. Or approve it and then reject updates. The business risk is ridiculous. The fact that non-sandboxed apps cannot be in the Mac App Store is probably the best thing Apple ever did for my mental health developing Keyboard Maestro.

Thank you for your reply. Just as we would not share information from your Apple Developer Program account with another developer, we do not share the details of apps submitted under other Apple Developer Program accounts.

Wait, what? This is not HIPAA information we're talking about here.

Schiller’s App Store leadership (am I misremembering that?) started strong, but hasn’t kept pace. Not sure about the Google conspiracy theory, and on some level protecting apps from clones is certainly a good thing, but that the situation is bad enough someone could non-ironically float that Google-plant theory shows what kind of morass the Store remains.

Update from Lucas (https://post.lurk.org/@lucas/109945115261748117): the day after Pagi was accepted in the App Store.

The 'unfair rejection - make noise and raise awareness - app is approved' process worked once again. But what a joke App Review is.

If someone stole his publicly shared code and submitted it, then I think the rejection was the right move.

Just as resorting good version, and removing the stolen one is the right move.

In this case the one possible shit move is that it seems like you still have to make a ruckus in public to get things done

chris brandow

fwiw, it looks like the Pagi case has one of the better resolutions I've seen for these kinds of cases. Doesn't excuse the initial opacity, however.

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