A recent thread on the Dropbox API development forum has reported on Apple rejecting iOS apps with Dropbox functionality. Apple has cited section 11.13 of its terms: “We found that your app provides access to external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.”
The issue appears to be Dropbox’s iOS SDK, which at the time provided a means to access the ‘Desktop version’ and create a paid account outside of Apple’s ‘walled garden’. The company subsequently released a revised SDK, and users on Dropbox’s forum accused Apple of overly protectionist behaviour, surmising it wanted to ‘force’ developers to embrace iCloud over Dropbox. Others, however, such as ‘Nic W’, argued Dropbox’s OAuth dialog should simply include a username and password, and no upsell at all.
iOS Developer Shaun Austin told .net that he largely sided with the last of those opinions. “As I understand it, when an app needs to authorise with Dropbox accounts, it checks to see if the Dropbox app is installed, launches that, then switches back to the original app,” he said. “But if Dropbox isn’t installed, the Dropbox SDK switches to Safari and a set of mobile authorisation pages, which contained the ability to authorise an account or create a free one, but also links to download the desktop version. On those pages, there are links to the pro version, and that breaches App Store rules, directing someone to pay for something outside of the Apple system but from within.”
A fair cop
Austin reckoned this was “one of those things that will pass and everyone will forget about,” and suggested it was a ‘fair cop’: “Dropbox seemed to recognise the problem and was taking steps to update the SDK to fix it. Once that filters through, the apps will start being approved again. The claims Apple's moves are anticompetitive and in defence of iCloud and so on, are, I think, way off the mark and the usual rampant ‘shriekery’ we've come to expect.”
Developer John Goering agreed that the move was consistent with Apple policy, and noted it was essentially akin to how you can't purchase books within Amazon’s Kindle app, which also lacks a link even to amazon.com. Goering added that this policy has been around since July 2011, and so he said it was “frustrating to have this big deal be made out of something that Apple has been consistently enforcing for months in many other cases, such as with Rdio and Amazon”. He said if Apple hadn’t enforced its rules, Amazon and others would be angry at inconsistent treatment.
However, Goering also told us he thought the policy itself was totally unnecessary: “Apple's argument for this policy is that it streamlines and improves user experience. As if not being able to buy Amazon books within the app improves the user experience for anyone. The alternative that Apple is apparently seriously proposing is Amazon paying them 30 per cent for every book anyone buys from within the Kindle app. ‘Draconian’ is a great term for it, and it's extreme even for Apple, in my opinion.”
According to The Verge, Dropbox has stated it is "working with Apple to come up with a solution that still provides an elegant user experience".
Image credit: Dropbox.