Is Apple using its clout to bully app developers who use the Dropbox SDK (and more generally, offer options for users to use services which compete directly with Apple’s own services)?
Reports are pouring in that the maker of shiny i-devices is blocking apps which use the Dropbox SDK from getting approved through its rigorous vetting process.
Dropbox has confirmed as much with the company saying that Apple is rejecting apps which use the Dropbox SDK.
Apparently, Apple does not want users to create new accounts or upgrade their storage externally.
As a background, Apple started requiring developers last year to eliminate any link in iOS apps which could be followed by users to make subscriptions and purchases outside of Apple’s system.
Why? Simply put, Apple will not get its cut if the purchase was made by a user outside of Apple’s system.
The problem with Dropbox, which offers free and for a fee online storage, is that it directly competes with Apple’s own cloud service, iCloud.
Which begs the question, is Apple bullying developers who in their apps chose to offer other services like Dropbox which compete with Apple’s own services?
In a thread in the Dropbox forums, user Goran Daemon P said that Apple has just rejected his app named CamBox. The app touts its ability to “upload directly to your Dropbox.”
In a post from PandoDaily, the developer shared a screenshot of Apple’s reply when they rejected his app.
Apple said the app violated rule 11.13 in Apple’s terms for apps on its stores. The rule states:
“11.13 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.”
In Apple’s reply to the developer, the company said: “We found that your app provides access to external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app…Specifically, this app contains a link that takes the user to Dropbox via Safari.”
Apple added: “To be in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines, it would be appropriate to remove the access to these mechanisms – including fully qualified links to your site that indirectly provide access to these mechanisms, such as links to web pages for support, FAQ, product or program details, etc.”
Apple further explained: “On occasion, there may be apps on the App Store tha don’t appear to be in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines. We work hard to ensure that the apps on the App Store are in compliance and we try to identify any apps currently on the App Store that may not be. It takes time to identify these occurrences but another app being out of compliance is not a reason for your app to be.”
The issue is this, the Dropbox SDK is made specifically to authorize third-party apps by bringing a user to Safari where they can authorize the app to use their Dropbox account.
However, this page also gives the user the option to make a new account and, upon further digging through the Dropbox site, to upgrade to a paid account.
There’s the rub Apple is citing as this has the potential for users to forego purchasing through Apple’s system which will lead to sales sans Apple’s cut.
For its part, Dropbox took away the link to the desktop version of their site but Apple still rejected apps that used the Dropbox SDK.
Dropbox then released a new SDK which did not include the ability to make a new account.
In a reply, Goran Daemon P. Said that even if an average user can and does go “digging through the desktop version of dropbox.com,” the app developers “did not point them there and will never see it unless they navigate away from the standard workflow.”
In one of the app developer’s reply to Apple, he said:
“Just because the user can somehow dig to a part of Dropbox website where it is possible to purchase additional space does not mean that we have intentionally sent the user there. Dropbox Safari linking process is done extremely well by the Dropbox team, and the only way for the user to get to purchase option is to go to Desktop version of site.”
He added that “Basically, since we switch the user to Safari , al options are possible – user might as well go to Amazon and purchase something there.”
“Dropbox SDK for iOS at the moment works by sending user to Safari in order to authorize if Dropbox app is not installed. If the user devices not to follow preset path and navigates away once in Safari – there is absolutely nothing we can do,” he added.
Dropbox is reportedly working together with Apple to offer a better solution which will work for app developers, Apple and Dropbox.