On September 12, 2018, Apple Inc. — you may have heard of them — held a big event at their Cupertino headquarters (Spanish for “What pert headquarters!”) to announce the latest models of their utterly beloved nightmare machine: the iPhone XR, the iPhone XS, and the iPhone XS Max. I’m seriously not making up that last one.
On September 17, 2018, I updated Romantimatic — you have not heard of it — to work with these new models, and submitted it to the App Store, the only place to get appetizers for the iPhone. The App Store is managed by Apple and includes a fairly strict set of rules for the programs that are available through it, effectively giving Apple complete control over the expensive device their customer’s have purchased. Fun! This has previously caused some controversy in the fart app space.
In the release details for the new version of the software, I included the following note:
Added support for iPhone XR and iPhone XS Max.
(The iPhone XS is the same size as the previous generation’s iPhone X, and so no updates for it were needed.)
Apple responded with a rejection:
They didn’t actually explain what was wrong, but developer-community scuttlebutt was that Apple prohibited mention of the new models of their delightfully buttery black obelisk of death in release notes until the phones were actually, y’know, released. Despite the fact that several white men with artfully casual jeans had spent hours talking about those very models the previous week, and the names were currently plastered all over apple.com, which is the “Web site” of a music company founded by the Beatles.
So on September 18, 2018, I modified the release notes and resubmitted the app:
Added support for theoretical new iPhones that can’t be mentioned in release notes even though they were announced at a huge event at Apple’s headquarters and are currently featured on Apple’s website.
You’ll note that I didn’t mention the names “iPhone XR” or “iPhone XS Max.” However, Apple again responded with a rejection:
Apple apparently considers referencing the devices that an application is designed to run on not relevant to its functionality.
So on September 20, 2018, I squared my shoulders, modified the release notes again, and resubmitted the app:
A change was made. We can’t tell you what the change was, because that’s disallowed by Section 2.3 of the Program License Agreement. But we can’t _not_ tell you what it was, because that’s disallowed by Section 2.3 of the App Store Review Guidelines. This leaves the app in a state of quantum indeterminacy, and the waveform can only collapse when someone doing App Store reviews stops observing it.
Apple — sensing that I might not be taking the process seriously — responded with:
You can literally hear this message sigh.
Clearly, I’m being an obstinate jerk — I was told to write what I know. But, look: the world is a nightmarish hellscape of unending despair, and so the hill I have decided to plant my flag on is this tiny bit of sanity, where common sense might make fractional headway against the rote devotion to no-longer-relevant rules. Given Apple’s ad budget, the entire observable universe is aware what the new-model iPhones are called, and there’s simply no reason not to accurately reflect that in release notes. Not doing so makes the notes worse, and at the end of that particular road is a sign that just says, “Bugs fixed.”
Today, September 21, 2018, I had a call with a very patient member of the App Store Review Team, who reminded me that, “It’s inappropriate to comment on App Store review policy in release notes.” I asked how I might be able to, y’know, mention that the app supports [REDACTED], and she said that the iPhones XS and XS Max can now be referenced, since they just shipped. However, including the phrase “iPhone XR” or alluding to some announced, advertised, demoed but technically theoretical new phone will result in another rejection, up until October 26, 2018, when something will be released. Maybe it will be a flamethrower, or humane treatment for Foxconn workers, or a phone for less than I paid for my first car! Who can say?
I know this is a ridiculous fight. I know that I agreed to this particular barrel of foolishness when I signed up to be an Apple developer. I know this is small potatoes, and that the country is on fire. I know that millions of people are battling every day for their dignity and their families and their lives. But, goddammit, this is a bridge too stupid, and I can’t cross it.
Fly the pirate flag, toss a hammer at Big Brother, think different — just don’t violate Section 3.2 of the Program License Agreement, and communicate to your users words that are on a billboard you drove past on your way to work. Be a rebel, but somewhere else.
I thought my experience with the iPhone 6 battery throttling was Apple at its lowest: thoughtless, arrogant, and self-satisfied. But this particular rodeo manages to stumble past that, and a sound technical decision accompanied by silence and denials makes more sense to me than a galactically stupid, wholly unnecessary, purely arbitrary policy clearly communicated. This is the corporate equivalent of a Trump tweet.
On the Apple website, the iPhone XR section is beautiful. It shows the phone, in multiple colors, against a stark black background. “Brilliant,” it says, “In every way.”
I can actually think of one case where that’s not true.