Heyja Vu: App Store Rejects 37signals’s New Hey Calendar App

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Apple waited until end of business on Friday to send us the formal rejection of the HEY Calendar app. It seems they love to play these little games to try to drown any controversy with the cover of a weekend. But we don’t roll over that easy, so the team worked through the weekend to prepare a new build to appease the App Store’s bullying bureaucrats, and I think you’re going to like what we came up with.

See, Apple’s stated reason for rejecting the HEY Calendar app is once again that “it doesn’t do anything when you download it”. In other words, it features a login screen, and requires you to have an existing account with our HEY email service in order to use it. It’s the textbook definition of a free companion app, which Apple specifically exempts from having to use in-app payments. They even cite Email Services(!!) as an example in 3.1.3(f):

3.1.3(f) Free Stand-alone Apps: Free apps acting as a stand-alone companion to a paid web based tool (eg. VOIP, Cloud Storage, Email Services, Web Hosting) do not need to use in-app purchase, provided there is no purchasing inside the app, or calls to action for purchase outside of the app.

It seems bonkers to me that after all the bad publicity that befell Apple in June 2020 over Apple’s rejection of the Hey email app, they’d veto a Hey companion app — which requires the exact same type of account as Hey email — for the exact same reasons. They should have just let it through, for the risk of bad publicity alone.

Here’s just a taste from my own coverage of the Hey email app rejection back in June 2020:

Apple doesn’t want people writing articles like those (or this very one) this week. They want people writing articles about Vision Pro.

More crucially, regulators and legislators around the world are looking to wield antitrust powers against Apple, and all of them are primarily looking at the App Store. The stakes for Apple are much higher today than they were in 2020. The last thing Apple wants is a news narrative along the lines of “More Bullshit From Apple Trying to Squeeze Developers Into Giving Them a Cut of Revenue When the Developers Simply Want to Sell Subscriptions Directly to Customers Over the Web”. But by rejecting Hey Calendar, they seem to be inviting such a narrative.

I just don’t get it. Apple has nothing to gain by this — *nothing, not a cent — but a lot to lose.

Update, one day later: Apple approved the Hey Calendar app.