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This week saw many developers receive notices from Apple saying they will remove apps from the store that haven’t been updated for more than two years. I actually thought Apple had done this before, but I can’t find any evidence that they did. From the wording in the notices, though, it seems likely to happen this time.

The stats in this article from Ariel Michaeli are worth looking at and show more than 750,000 live apps that could be in this situation. I don’t expect Apple to blanket remove them all, but this is a big problem. It’s especially rough for game developers as games are less likely to break on more modern versions of iOS and are more likely to be “completed objects”.

Part of the problem is that the effort needed to update an app for compatibility with a new iOS release can be significant, especially for smaller developers. The requirement to add retina assets was the end of one of my early apps, as it would have meant commissioning a whole new set of artwork for it, and it was very artwork-heavy. Instead, I decided to retire the app.

Does the answer lie in better backwards compatibility? Resubmission of an app that still compiles without changes and where developers don’t need to make significant platform updates would be a much easier pill to swallow, but even that would come with a cost. Backward compatibility costs time and effort and slows down moving the platforms forward. Is it worth the trade-off? Also, would the App Store really be a better place today if my app from 2012 with non-retina artwork were still available? I don’t think it would.

With so many apps, it can’t be a case of looking at each one individually. There needs to be a rule, and I think I’m with Apple that the trade-off is worth it in this case, even though it’ll be a shame to see some working apps fall as part of the change.

Dave Verwer

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And finally...

It was a more innocent time. 🍻