Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

Is Dropbox Pulling a Honey Badger on the App Store?

Apple’s stringent guidelines on submissions to its App Store are no secret to developers: Abide by our rules or prepare to get your app nixed.

So why, then, did Dropbox recently blow by Apple’s guidelines with its software development kit?

Here’s the deal: Last week, developers utilizing Dropbox’s SDK in their own iOS apps started getting rejection notices from the App Store after submitting their apps for review. As evident from this saucy exchange between a developer and an Apple employee, Dropbox’s SDK included a link to the desktop version of its site, which allows users to purchase an upgrade in storage space for the service.

That’s a feature that Apple has explicitly banned in any iOS apps submitted to its store. According to section 11.13 of Apple’s App Store penal code (er, review guidelines): “Apps that link to external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app, such as a ‘buy’ button that goes to a web site to purchase a digital book, will be rejected.”

Apple confirmed to AllThingsD that this was indeed the guideline Dropbox had violated with its SDK.

As first noticed by The Next Web, developers were peeved at their apps’ sudden rejections, and rightly so. Resubmitting an app can take a matter of weeks to move through Apple’s approval process. And in the fast moving mobile world, time is money.

“I hope you enjoy rejecting decent apps for having normal functionality while letting all the fart apps through,” wrote independent developer Goran Peuc in an exchange with an Apple representative.

Dropbox’s response to the dust-up? An ever-so-subtle dig at Apple: “Apple is rejecting apps that use the Dropbox SDK because we allow users to create accounts,” a spokeswoman for Dropbox told me in an emailed response (emphasis mine). “We’re working with Apple to come up with a solution that still provides an elegant user experience.”

Update: Dropbox elucidated further after this story was first published, claiming that the problems lie in the inherent difficulties of Apple’s In-App Purchasing mechanism. “Apple requires paid services that allow account creation to offer the option to upgrade via In-App Purchase (IAP),” a Dropbox spokeswoman told AllThingsD in a statement. “We abide by this policy in our app, where we offer upgrades only via IAP. However, we are unable to offer IAP in our SDK to third-party developers due to limitations of IAP. Additionally, our SDK allows only free accounts to be created from third-party apps and has never been used to promote our paid plans.”

And to Dropbox’s credit, the SDK has already been patched, so developers shouldn’t come up against the issue any longer.

It would seem, then, that initially one of a few scenarios occurred: It was an oversight, and Dropbox accidentally left a link in the SDK, and it went unnoticed by Apple for the better part of seven months (which is how long Dropbox’s SDK has gone without alteration). Alternately, it was intentional, and the company wanted to see if the app could slide through undetected. Or perhaps the link seemed innocuous enough to Dropbox that the company thought Apple wouldn’t make a stink.

Obviously, the latter outcome wasn’t what happened.

Dropbox didn’t respond to my request for further clarification, but one would think that the company would have been wise to this beforehand. The slew of iOS app rejections in the past few years have been highly publicized in the tech press, especially the instance in which Apple rejected Sony’s Reader app last year.

In other words, Dropbox should have known better. If there’s a way for you to sell your product within Apple’s ecosystem — be it virtual goods, e-books or online storage — Apple wants its cut and always has. There’s really no way around it.

Perhaps Dropbox wanted to play the honey badger this time — and we all know that honey badger just don’t give a s#!*.

(Image courtesy of Mark Bridge/Flickr)

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