Talking tech since 2003

Apple’s latest mobile OS release, iOS 8, is a big step for the company. It’s the most open mobile operating system Apple has released thus far, and spending some time with it might have you believing that Apple is finally willing to give up a little bit of control.

But then you see an app like Launcher get pulled from the App Store, and it makes you realize that Apple can’t help itself. It needs to meddle.

launcherLauncher really isn’t doing anything wrong here. The app, which has been available for some time, offers users quick access to actions on social networks and in various apps. For iOS 8, all Launcher did was make this functionality available through a Notification Center widget.

This, apparently, did not please Apple. Launcher was pulled from the App Store on Friday, September 26, due to what Apple called a “misuse of widgets.”

It’s important to note that, up to that point, there were no rules or guidelines against the experience Launcher was providing in its widget. Apple looked at the app and simply determined that Launcher had done something wrong, so it had to go. Even after 300,000 users — some who paid for an ad-free “Pro” version — downloaded the app. And all those downloads took place in just nine days.

TechCrunch covered this story and, disappointingly, argued that the developer should have known this functionality would get the app pulled.

I have to disagree with that.

In the time since iOS 7’s release, Apple has been more willing to open up bits of the OS. The release of iOS 8 brought more ways for apps to talk to each other and use hardware once reserved exclusively for Apple’s software. Apple is letting devs do more and more — albeit slowly — and Launcher seems more like a step in line with Apple than a jump way ahead of the company. It isn’t outrageous; it is a great use of the hardware and software Apple gave us.

An app that lets users pull off some neat tricks from the Notification Center? It seems like something Apple would want to embrace; heck, it sounds like something Apple could put in a commercial. Instead, Launcher is a homeless app, and the developer behind it is left with a less-than-satisfactory explanation as to why that is.

Apple may seem different in the post-Jobs era, but let this be a reminder — some of that overprotectiveness still lingers. And it hurts more than it helps.

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