Apple's Arbitrary Review Process Now Being Used To Stop Competing Pebble Smart Watch

from the lame dept

For many years now, we've been highlighting how Apple appears to arbitrarily ban apps with little to no explanation, even though quite frequently, it appears to be because they are competitive with Apple products.

We haven't heard as much about that lately, leading to at least some hope that perhaps Apple has been opening up and allowing more apps. It's still a walled garden, which is ridiculous, but we'd hoped that the gate was relatively open. So it seems odd to find out that not only has Apple been refusing to allow Pebble's new iOS app, but it appears to be sitting on it for an extended period of time with no explanation (one version has been waiting for 43 days, another version, where "expedited review" was requested has been sitting for a few weeks).

Pebble, of course, is the maker of the first really popular smartwatch, and they're just starting to ship the second generation of that watch after a super successful Kickstarter campaign. As Pebble notes in the email that it sent around to backers, the last time it requested "expedited review" Apple approved that app in 24 hours. Of course, there's a big difference between the last time and this time: now the Apple Watch is on the market, meaning that Apple has a competitor in the marketplace, giving it incentives not to help out Pebble.

Obviously, there's no direct evidence that Apple is purposely blocking Pebble's app because it competes with the Apple Watch, but it does seem notable that the approval went through so much faster prior to Apple entering the space. And, even if that's not why Apple is blocking approval, just the fact that the company has a secretive, non-transparent, arbitrary approval process, at the very least, allows for the appearance of trying to block a competitor.

Update And... of course, just as this post is going out, it comes out that Apple has now finally approved the app, with Pebble claiming that the public pressure from it releasing its story helped push the app across the finish line.

Filed Under: app store, apple watch, arbitrary, pebble, pebble time
Companies: apple, pebble


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 3:55pm

    Ah, the wonders of walled gardens.

    It's also worth noting some of the ridiculous conditions in Apple's review guidelines:
    "...we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps."

    In this case it seemed to work for Pebble, but I wonder how developers who aren't as well known would fare.

    https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 4:39pm

    I wonder how much the existence of the Pebble and its iOS app worked its way into Apple Watch design and software?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CSMcDonald (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 4:49pm

    Well except..

    That the app wasn't actually waiting 43 days - Pebble revoked the version when it was approved and submitted a bug fix - that put it back to step one. Many other iOS developers have chimed in on other forums to point out this is all normal.

    Techdirt is a fantastic site except when it comes to reporting on Apple - there is a decided bias and the usual well researched stories go for OMG APPLE BAD EVIL which is a shame.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Travis, 5 Jun 2015 @ 5:02pm

      Re: Well except..

      There's 2 apps. 1 for the original pebble/steel and 1 for the pebble time. They submitted updates to both. they then found an issue with 1, pulled it and resubmitted. The app that hadn't been pulled was delayed for the full time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        CSMcDonald (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 5:20pm

        Re: Re: Well except..

        Thanks - I missed that that one was in review that long, my error.

        The delay on the new app is still within the normal approval range from what I've read elsewhere. No excuse on the first app, the review process is far too opaque and arbitrary.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 5:03pm

      Re: Well except..

      Having to wait weeks for an "expedited review" is normal?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Travis, 5 Jun 2015 @ 5:08pm

      Re: Well except..

      And correcting myself after re-reading the backer email.

      The update for the original app was in review for 43 days yesterday.

      After the first submission of the Pebble Time app which had been approved on the 18th, they had to submit an update for minor fixes. That update had been in expedited review since the 22nd of last month.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 6 Jun 2015 @ 3:00pm

      A little bit of transparency goes a long way

      ...which is one of the ongoing points on TechDirt.

      Apple's insistence on ignoring this notion and the air of pretense between the company and its more ignorant customers presents an implication that Apple feels it is too good to respect the public's interest in oversight.

      This is not unique to Apple. Pretty much any company that markets itself as upscale technology does this. Sony, for example.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    leehb9 (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 5:51pm

    The Pebble is Amazing

    I can see why Apple is afraid of the Pebble; I got mine on May 7th & charged it up. It's still running on that FIRST CHARGE almost a full month; (this Sunday (06/07) will be a full month. )

    I laugh when I hear about people having to charge their Apple watches twice a day! Oh, boo hoo, Apple!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Eat The Wormy Apple, 5 Jun 2015 @ 7:50pm

    Techdirters accuracy is improving!

    8 comments thus far, only two of which correct prior comments.

    One of the noobs flames Techdirt for being anti-Apple! Ridiculous. Hinting that Apple's review process is self-serving is far as Techdirt ever goes. Never a hint about the Chinese workers locked into factories with suicide nets, the obscene prices for status symbols, or the illegal way Apple keeps profits offshore untaxed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 6 Jun 2015 @ 11:26pm

      Re: Techdirters accuracy is improving!

      ...and which stories have been posted here where any of that is relevant? Surely you're not just whining that this site doesn't go on rants irrelevant to the subject being written about?

      Plus, how many of those things also happen with competitors? You're not stupid enough to believe that the only Chinese factories with such issues are the ones contracted by Apple (or that those factories only make stuff for Apple) or that only Apple use the tax laws to their advantage are you? As for the prices - so what? If people are willing to pay them, and are happy with their purchase, who gives a crap if you think they're too high?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    hegemon13, 6 Jun 2015 @ 6:42am

    It's worse than that

    Blocking the official Pebble app is bad enough, but there have been stories popping up all over about apps being removed or update approvals being denied because they mention Pebble compatibility in their description. Many are apps that have been around for a long time, and now that Apple Watch is out they are denying apps by claiming that mentioning Pebble compatibility is advertising a competing platform. Apple in love with antitrust again. Maybe they should just focus on making compelling products (which they are generally quite good at), and stop these outrageous efforts to stomp out any and all forms of competition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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