Why Apple should get rid of old and unsupported App Store apps?

Apple’s recently announced plan to get rid of unpleasant old apps from the App Store may upset some developers, but with more than 1 million abandoned apps lying around Google and Apple’s App Store, evidence supports this decision.

What Apple has said about its plans

In an April note to developers, Apple warned that it wanted to start removing older apps that hadn’t been updated in three or more years and had received fewer downloads in the previous 12 months.

“We are implementing an ongoing process of app evaluation, removing apps that no longer work as intended, do not follow current review guidelines or have become obsolete,” the company said.

Developers immediately began to complain about the policy, one of the strongest arguments being that minority apps that are no longer updated can be seen as some form of digital artwork caught up in time.

Stunned by the criticism, Apple later clarified its approach. It explained that it has been following this policy since 2016 and has so far removed 2.8 million apps that no longer work as intended, do not follow current review guidelines or are simply outdated.

The company further explained that developers could apply for a planned removal and extend the time up to 90 days before removal, which would give even small developers some opportunity to adapt their app to Apple’s requirements.

Why Apple has to act

But for all the criticism, Apple’s decision to shut down the apps that are available in its store makes a lot of sense, according to an abandoned Mobile Apps report by fraud protection company Pixellet.

Pixellet found more than 1.5 million abandoned apps out of over 5 million checked in Google Play and Apple App Store – and only 1.3 million apps that have been updated in the last six months.

Interestingly, and perhaps annoying to some Apple critics, 58% of the 500,000 or more apps that have been in the Apple Store for more than five years without any updates. In other words, Apple had very few options but to take steps to remove such software.

The report also found that 650,000 iOS apps have not been updated for more than two years.

It is interesting to note that the report notes a strong (ish) relationship between regular software updates and app downloads. It found that 84% of apps, with over 100 million downloads, have been updated in the last six months, with the Finance, Health and Shopping apps being the most frequently updated.

Why is the old, abandoned application a problem?

Older, unpleasant apps have a lot of problems – they may not work in the current version of iOS, they may have code that is no longer supported so features don’t work, or rely on poorly crafted code that can be hard-to-create . Find software conflicts. But the big reason is security.

Abandoned apps can host malware or other vulnerabilities that have never been patched, because developers lose interest before they can identify those bugs.

[Also read: Google slowly follows Apple in app-tracking lockdown]

Apple’s other challenge is that apps that haven’t been updated may not be completely transparent about privacy and what user data they collect. Apple’s app tracking privacy policy meant that developers were required to disclose such information when releasing an app through the App Store, something older apps did not need to do.

That means older apps may still have tracking codes Apple wants to refrain from distributing (for good reason), and removing them is the only solution.

I think Apple is stepping up policing to force developers to comply with its user privacy efforts. It doesn’t really have many choices. Think of it this way: Just as a relatively small number of developers have created online coverage by complaining about app deletion, so old and careless apps distributed through its store will be a heinous violation of user privacy.

Both Apple and Google need to be prepared for more control. In the UK, for example, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has introduced a proposal to create a voluntary practice code to protect consumers from malicious apps.

“The main intervention the government is proposing at an early stage is to practice a voluntary code for all app store operators and developers,” DCMS said. “It simply came to our notice then [recognize] The most effective way to protect users from malicious and unsafe apps and ensure developers improve their practices is through the App Store. “

I have seen the proposals; Significantly, they justify Apple’s approach to the privacy and security of the app.

What next?

Removing thousands of irrelevant apps may sound like a big deal, but it’s not as dramatic as one might think.

Currently, Apple approves 1,000 new apps every day in the App Store, which means that despite the removal of those disliked apps, there is a wide choice of software available. Apps that are missing are those that have not been updated and whose developers are unable to comply with Apple’s stated policy.

If there is one more thing to consider, it is that if some regulatory change is made mandatory on Apple, we will see numerous app stores appear and not all will be equal. Some will be less well-regulated, which means less protection for consumers. Sideloading an app that has malicious code will be a bigger problem than before, as there will initially be malicious apps that later become hosts of malware because they carry vulnerabilities at first and are never patched.

One way Apple is able to compete is to double the number of apps it distributes through its stores. This will work to make apps more personal and secure and ensure that its app store environment continues to be the safest and most convenient place to shop.

To ensure their apps are available in Apple’s App Shop, developers need to be as committed to their software as Apple is to its platform, which means regular patches, enhancements and upgrades.

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Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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