UPDATED: Apple yanks AppGratis discovery service from the App Store

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has removed the popular discovery and deals service AppGratis from its App Store, continuing its efforts to eliminate iOS applications that promote apps other than the developer's own.

The free AppGratis spotlighted premium applications offered for free or at heavily discounted prices, also promoting "freemium giveaways" like free in-app purchases and level unlocks. The AppGratis partner network spanned more than 6,000 iOS developers worldwide--in March, the app topped the 12 million user mark. Earlier this year, AppGratis also completed a $13.5 million Series A financing round led by Iris Capital and the Orange Publicis fund.

Apple confirmed to AllThingsD that AppGratis ran afoul of iOS developer clause 2.25, which reads "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." Apple instituted clause 2.25 in September 2012, and in December ejected the popular AppShopper price tracker tool for violating the rule.

In addition, Apple stated that AppGratis also violated section 4.6, which reads "Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind." AppGratis did not respond to a request for comment.

Mahmoud Hafez, CEO of iOS review site AppAdvice.com, questions whether clause 2.25 is the root of AppGratis' removal, citing the continued App Store availability of rival app discovery and recommendation services, including his own.

"We have not heard about any specifics about AppGratis, but given the fact that their iPad app was just approved days ago means some new information must have come to light which caused Apple to respond with such vigor," Hafez said in a release issued to PaloAltoPatch. "I do not know if AppGratis was using illegal tactics to gain App Store chart position, or some other method that has marred the app discovery industry, but I think Apple must have found something new over the past few days… It's easy to bash Apple and paint them as control freaks, but I don't think this is a case of Big Brother trying to squash the little guy."

Hafez speculates that AppGratis may have instead circumvented App Store rules preventing applications from leveraging services that promise to artificially inflate App Store rankings. "This unique business model might have been troubling to Apple, as it operates outside of the framework Apple has set up, in which the App Store was meant to be a meritocracy," Hafez said. "Clearly AppGratis' proposal was good for developers with deep pockets (that) want exposure, but it was done with the developer in mind first, not the user." 

For more:
- read this TechCrunch article
- read this PaloAltoPatch article
- read this AllThingsD article

Related articles:
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Apple slams the door on third-party app discovery services
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Apple warns developers against manipulating App Store rankings
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Article updated April 8 with comment from Apple.

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