AppGratis' competitors escape Apple's knife - for now

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Although Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has removed app recommendation service AppGratis from its App Store, several other similar app discovery services remain untouched.

Apple confirmed that AppGratis violated two sections of its developer guidelines, which led to Apple removing the app. Specifically, Apple said AppGratis violated section 2.25 of its developer guidelines ("Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected") as well as section 5.6 ("Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind").

However, AllThingsD reported that AppGratis' business model may have also played a role, given its emphasis on paid discovery. "The App Store is intended as a meritocracy," a source familiar with the matter told AllThingsD, adding that app discovery platforms in general are acceptable under Apple's guidelines, as long as they do not exclusively favor apps that pay to play.

This could explain why some of AppGratis' key competitors have not been yanked from the app store. App discovery services Appoday, Appsfire and AppRewards are all still available for download from the Apple App Store. Apple did not respond to a request for comment regarding these similar apps.

Appsfire Co-founder Ouriel Ohayon explained to FierceMobileContent that if violating Apple's developer guideline 2.25 was the problem with AppGratis, then Appsfire and other app discovery apps would likely be cut out of the Apple App Store too. "Apple never removes an app without a solid reason," said Ohayon. Appoday and AppRewards did not respond to a request for comment.

Under Apple's policy, in order for AppGratis to be reinstated in the App Store, it will need to revise its app to not promote other third-party apps in a manner similar to the App Store. In addition, in the future it would be prohibited from using Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions or direct marketing of any kind.

AppGratis would need to either abide by these guidelines or follow in the way of another competitor, FreeMyApps, which provides a native app for Google Play but requires iOS users to visit its mobile website to circumvent the App Store.

AppGratis did not respond to a request for comment.

Apple has a long history of cracking down on incentivized app downloads. In 2011, Apple banned apps that rewarded users for downloading other apps. Apple introduced the 2.25 clause in September and pulled price tracker app AppShopper in December for violating the rule. AppShopper is still missing from the App Store.

For more:
- see this AllThingsD story
- see this GigaOm story

Related articles:
Apple yanks AppGratis discovery service from the App Store
Apple boots AppShopper for violating new App Store guidelines
Apple slams the door on third-party app discovery services
App Store rankings fluctuate wildly after iOS 6 release
Apple warns developers against manipulating App Store rankings
Tapjoy: Developer revenues nosedive after Apple bans pay-per-install apps
Apple smacks down incentivized iOS downloads

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