The maker of a popular iOS app and widget, PCalc, which took advantage of iOS 8’s support for Notification Center Widgets, was recently told by Apple that his handy app would be pulled from the App Store due to the fact that “widgets on iOS cannot perform any calculations.” The app’s creator, James Thomson, took to Twitter to inform users and respond to inquiries about the matter, saying it was “extremely disappointing news,” and that he was “just really really sad.”
But now we’re hearing that Apple is changing its course. The PCalc app and widget will remain in the App Store, and all calculator-type widgets will be allowed as well, an Apple spokesperson has confirmed to us.
From our understanding, the calculator use case was not one that Apple had anticipated, which is why an App Store reviewer originally explained to Thomson that he would need to adjust the app, or risk being pulled from the App Store.
Thomson was told he had two to three weeks to remove the widget from the app and then resubmit a new version without the calculation functionality. Of course, a calculator in a widget was kind of the whole point of the widget in the first place, so he would instead have to remove the widget entirely.
PCalc is a handy calculator app that recently became a very useful widget as well, thanks to iOS 8. The widget allows you to access a calculator right in the Notifications Center in order to do quick calculations, and you can tap on the widget’s display to switch to the full app.
PCalc’s widget is very useful when you’re within another app and need to do calculations, as switching to a different app just to use a calculator can be a pain. Some apps – including a good number of financial apps – log you out for security purposes when you switch away from them, which is why the PCalc widget became many users’ favorite widget to date.
That the app would be removed because of its widget functionality came as a bit of a surprise to Thomson – especially because Apple was currently featuring PCalc in the “Great Apps for iOS 8” section under “Notification Center Widgets” at the time he heard the news. That seemed to signal a retroactive change in Apple policy around how Notification Center widgets could operate.
These sorts of unofficial policies adjustments happen from time to time as Apple reacts to how its developer community integrates new iOS features into their applications.
For example, last month, Apple rejected a useful app called “Launcher” after the fact, which would have allowed users to quickly launch applications or perform custom actions (tweeting, posting to Facebook, e.g.) right from its widget. In that case, the problem was that “launcher” apps in general are considered a misuse of widgets, we heard, even though that isn’t explicitly spelled out in Apple’s policies.
But as for why a calculator widget would not be allowed is less clear. It doesn’t seem to be a security issue since widgets are sandboxed, meaning they are as secure as any other standalone iOS application.
In any event, this situation is resolved for the time being – at least until the next developer thinks up an idea that extends beyond the use cases that Apple planned for when writing up its guidelines.
The “app rejection” story is now an old one, and many developers think that they can make noise about their problem with Apple just to get reinstated. That’s not always going to work — and can often backfire, too. But in this case, Apple seems to have readjusted its policy change fairly quickly in light of the pushback from PCalc fans, and made the right choice.
There’s really no harm in calculator widgets, and allowing developers to craft innovative experiences that push the boundaries of what Apple may have intended is ultimately a positive gain for the company’s platform in the long run.
Oh, and yes, we know: Android users don’t have this problem. Widgets aplenty over there!
Image Credits: PCalc, 9to5Mac