Earlier this week, we noted that Apple’s new policy of automatically serving up old versions of apps to users was good for the downloader, but not so great for the developer. Today, Apple has adjusted its policy and will allow developers to choose not to offer old versions.
Apple made the announcement on its news site for developers (emphasis ours):
Previous versions of your apps are now available for re‑download by users who have already purchased them, allowing customers to use your apps with older devices which may no longer be supported by the current version of your app. If you do not wish to make these versions available, you can manage the availability of your apps’ previous versions in the Rights and Pricing section of the Manage Your Apps module in iTunes Connect
The “app resurrection” feature is a seamless option that Apple enabled on its App Store this week that allowed users to automatically download editions of apps that work on older iOS versions. This way, if a developer began only supporting iOS 7, a user on iOS 6 could grab the “last known good” version of the app that ran on their device. This was a nice addition that should serve users of old iPhones and iPods well.
However, in our report, we described the issues that could pop up because the feature was opaque to developers:
To give you a brief example, any old version of Your Favorite Twitter Client that hasn’t been updated to work with the new v1.1 API will be very buggy or broken completely if you try to download it on an old version of iOS.
Sources in the developer community have confirmed to us that there is no option available in Apple’s iTunes Connect dashboard that allows a developer to see which version of their apps are being served to which iOS versions. That opacity alone has the potential to confuse customer support issues, as old versions of the app may very well contain bugs or issues that have gone un-addressed as developers move on to the latest versions of iOS.
But there is also no way for developers to re-upload old versions of the apps with those issues fixed. Simply put, a user on an old version of iOS could download an app with issues that are impossible for a developer to ever fix. You can see the nightmare scenario that is cropping up in many developer’s minds here.
Now, it seems that Apple has either listened to the developers that have been worried about the feature, or revealed more support options around it. At the time of our original report, we had heard that there were no provisions in place or planned to allow developers any control. So this is welcome news.
There could also have been some legal ramifications here if developers had made changes to old versions due to litigation. If those old versions went back out, they or Apple could be held liable.
The ability to restrict the versions of the apps that are available to download automatically via this feature is definitely a great addition. The one other possibility we had mentioned would be to allow developers to “fix” the bugs and issues that could make those old versions work well again and re-upload them. That does not appear to be a part of this adjustment from Apple.
This should go a long way toward alleviating fears from developers that old, broken versions of their apps would get downloaded, opening the door for unhappy users to leave bad reviews based on those old apps.
H/t Josh Ong.
Image Credit: Oyvind Solstad/Flickr CC