The developer of Amphetamine, an app that prevents Macs from going into sleep mode, says Apple told him it violated App Store guidelines, even though it’s been in the App Store since 2014, and has nothing to do with drug use. Not long after The Verge reached out to Apple for comment on Saturday however, the company reversed its decision, and the app will be able to stay up with its current name and logo.
William C. Gustafson said in January 1st posts on Reddit and Github that Apple had informed him he had two weeks to “remove all references to the word ‘amphetamine’ and remove the pill from the icon.” If he failed to do so, Gustafson wrote, Apple said it would remove the app from the App Store on January 12th. The logo features a cartoon image of a pill.
Gustafson told The Verge he got a call Saturday from Apple granting his appeal— but he didn’t have insight into how the app was flagged in the first place. “I specifically asked Apple on the phone if this was a result of customer complaints and Apple’s response was ‘I don’t think so,’” he said. “I found it odd that this issue came up out of nowhere. I wasn’t in the middle of trying to update Amphetamine or anything. Just sitting at home with my kids enjoying our holiday and got the violation/rejection email from Apple.”
Just got off a call with @Apple. Appeal accepted and Amphetamine will remain on the @AppStore. Thank you all for your comments, opinions, and action. We may not all agree, but I am happy we all still have the freedom to express ourselves today. pic.twitter.com/PV7eB9aUfn
— William C. Gustafson (@x74353) January 2, 2021
Gustafson says Apple contacted him on December 29th and told him Amphetamine “appears to promote inappropriate use of controlled substances. Specifically, your app name and icon include references to controlled substances, pills.”
The free macOS app has been downloaded more than 432,000 times, with a 4.8 rating, Gustafson said, noting that Apple even featured Amphetamine in an Mac App Store story. He said he had numerous interactions with Apple employees for updates to the app since its launch, with no one objecting to the name or logo until now.
The specific App Store guideline Gustafson was accused of violating is this one, which states “Apps that encourage consumption of tobacco or vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol are not permitted on the App Store. Apps that encourage minors to consume any of these substances will be rejected. Facilitating the sale of marijuana, tobacco, or controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies) isn’t allowed.”
Gustafson says Amphetamine does none of these things, and said changing the name of the app would have wrecked its brand recognition and potentially made it harder for users to find future updates.
Gustafson initially said he didn’t expect his appeal to be successful, and indeed, Apple typically hews pretty closely to its App Store rules in most cases. The company has faced pushback from developers on several fronts in recent months, with big industry companies including Spotify, Tile, and Epic Games forming a group called the Coalition for App Fairness. It says Apple’s rules create an uneven playing field in its App Stores.
Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson battled with Apple last summer over the mobile app design of his company’s email client, Hey. And Epic Games filed a lawsuit against Apple in August after the iOS version of its battle royale game Fortnite was removed from the App Store. Epic had implemented its own payment processing system into the iOS version of Fortnite, which goes against App Store rules.
Apple didn’t immediately comment on Saturday.