Apple Makes Life Unpleasant for a Bernal Heights App Developer

Apple's Death Star Looms over Bernal Heights

Neighbors Jon and Liz aren’t the only Bernalese who have been making a splash on Ellsworth Street. Neighbor Greg Gardner is a software developer who also lives on Ellsworth, just a block north of Jon and Liz. He writes to tell us about his recent high-profile tangle with Apple:

In addition to my two neighbors here on Ellsworth St who were published in the New York Times Magazine, I also had an interesting weekend, although not as positive as theirs.

Last year I quit my job as a software developer to work for myself making iPhone and iPad apps. My first app went out earlier this year and didn’t do so well. So I started working on my second app, called Launcher, and released it a week and half ago, on the day that iOS 8 came out.

This second app was doing really well and I was planning on sending you a little note to let you know that one of your Bernal neighbors had built something that was being enjoyed by people all over the world.

Then Apple decided on Friday to take my app off of the App Store with little explanation. I think they did it on Friday evening in order to try to avoid it getting press coverage, but luckily it is getting picked up. Here’s what TechCrunch says about it:

Launcher’s creator, Greg Gardner, tells us that his new app had ranked highly on the list of the top 20 highest grossing productivity apps in the U.S. shortly after its App Store debut, and it made it into the top 10 highest grossing productivity apps in 43 different countries.

Nearly 300,000 users over the course of nine days downloaded Launcher, he says – good numbers for a brand-new app of any kind which hasn’t yet begun to do serious marketing or paid user acquisition.

Gardner explains in more detail via a post on his website, that Apple said that launcher apps like his were a “misuse of widgets,” and made the decision to pull the app down even though there are no written rules that state launcher apps cannot exist. He also says he attempted submitting a fix which would redirect users who tap on the Launcher widget first to the Launcher app itself, then to the target app. Apple rejected the fix within an hour on Friday, and then pulled Launcher from the App Store.

9 to 5 Mac covered the situation, and Business Insider headlined their article A Developer Created A Brilliantly Innovative New Way To Use The iPhone’s Widgets, But Apple Killed It.

I published my official take on the situation here, and an online petition has been set up. The petition is gaining traction as well.

So now, instead of quietly making a living for myself and my family building apps, I find myself thrust into a struggle against the company with the largest market capitalization in the world — all from my little house on Ellsworth. Obviously, my struggle pales in comparison to the ones many of our neighbors have had to fight to keep their houses and whatnot — but still, it’s an issue that affects my future livelihood.

Yuck. This isn’t the first time Apple has made life unpleasant for a Bernal resident, and it should come as a surprise to no one that Apple can be, uh, rather controlling. Still, it sucks when Apple acts arbitrarily and autocratically, and it sucks even more when that behavior impacts the livelihood of a Bernal neighbor.


15 thoughts on “Apple Makes Life Unpleasant for a Bernal Heights App Developer

  1. IMHO, Greg shouldn’t be surprised to think that Apple wouldn’t have problems with this kind of application. Note: I’m not and never have been affiliated with Apple in any way shape or form.

    • Not surprised either because Apple is the worst. If the app was about slicing fruit or smashing pieces of candy it would have been ok for sure. If somebody is interested with personalization or productivity on your smartphone, they should probably use the superior Android OS.

  2. Well, yes. Annoying indeed. Why just last week I tapped the wrong place on my iPhone and inadvertently launched a surface to air missile from Bogota to Madrid. Luckily for me, it landed on a park bench near the Prado, didn’t explode, and was immediately celebrated as an Art Installation. Whew. Close call.

  3. INTERNET FALLACY: The #1 Internet fallacy is that the Internet is a good source of income. The very libertarian business model of the Internet is what kills its potential for the average person. That is, the people with the money will always win out and the rest of us will be spending money and time trying to get traction. I must know about 15 people who have written apps for iPhone and/or Android. None of them has made any money on them. This is also true of Web advertising. Sure, spend thousands of dollars on Google AdWords, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, and then watch the hits to your website with NO sales. I’ve done it; others have done it. In order to get traction you need boatloads of money just to break through the noise. Same with selling things on EBay or Amazon. I know many people who do this. None of them makes anything more than pocket change, and when it comes down to time spent, they’re barely making $1 an hour.

    Wanna be self-employed? Do something old-school. Become a carpenter, plumber, auto mechanic, something local that can’t be shipped overseas. I know successful people in all those careers.

  4. Sign the End Times Are Nigh: The two most recent posts focused directly on the angst of tech workers (more or less)–their desire to be delivered to the Caltrain Station for the glorious trip south and then this tale, a real modernist tearjerker.

    News is slow. Or this is really what the neighborhood is going to be like.

    Perhaps the lesson in one case is “don’t quit your day job” while in the other it’s “quit your day job.”

    I am beginning to miss the raging debates between how people are being priced out of Bernal each and every day vs. how “The Change” is all well and good and nature’s way (and whatever other piffle is up for sale). At least that topic involved a greater bulk of Bernal residents, albeit many who are clinging by threads to survive here. (Well, the past two posts are a reflection of this debate, so I guess I am not really missing anything.)

    This post already had 3 more responses than it deserved before I got to writing mine. My sincere apologies.

    Next time, I am going to write about how long it takes to get from Bernal to the Inner Richmond for dinner–highlighting the urgent need for a better cross-town southeast to northwest transit option–or how my apple crisp recipe was accepted (but then not) by my aunt, who had told me that, honestly, she had liked it at first, and that her neighbor had said it wasn’t half bad, either.

    It’s so frustrating.

    • Yes, that must be very frustrating for you. It’s sad that this apple crisp incident has made you so bitter. Still, it’s really good that you’ve opened up to share your feelings.

      When you recover from that setback, if there are other stories you’d like to share about things that are happening in Bernal, you might consider doing what your other neighbors did — they sent their stories to Bernalwood. That’s how it works: People share stuff, and then … Abracadabra! … it ends up here.

      Now, those other neighbors may not be as interesting or as substantial or as enlightened as you, yet they shared their stories nonetheless. You can do it too. Just give it a try. It might even make you feel less bitter. Or maybe not. But give it a try anyway.

      • Todd, I am not bitter in the least. It’s an odd interpretation on your part. You sound more frustrated and bitter than I do.

        Many stories on Bernalwood about slice-of-life tales resonate widely and are great to enjoy and read and think about. I am sure that many readers appreciate them, and also value Bernalwood for being a channel to share them.

        However, the one about the app was about slice-of-gripe, a tale far more self-indulgent and self-important than almost anything else I have read here over the years. I know that I was also self-indulgent, but at least my comment was far more interesting to read.

        Yes, most folks are not as enlightened as I am, but Todd, it is not nice to point that out in polite company, or even to me.

      • Alas, despite your vast enlightenment, your resentment of the product have obscured a more transcendent imbalance in the means of production.

        Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that someone in Bernal Heights developed a really amazing farm-to-table organic apple crisp, which they developed and produced inside their home, with apples grown here in Bernal, and with distribution and sales handled by Whole Foods.

        The apple crisp is awesome, and Whole Foods is selling lots of it, and the Bernal-based chef hopes to make their awesome apple crisp the foundation of their family income for the next year or so.

        And then, one day, Whole Foods decides to stop carrying the apple crisp. They ban the apple crisp even though the recipe complies with all the vendor guidelines Whole Foods has in place as prerequisites for distribution via Whole Foods stores. But they decide to drop it anyway, basically, because they are Whole Foods, and they can do whatever they want.

        It’s a loose analogy, but as I think you get the drift. If this story had been about awesome farm-to-table organic apple crisp rather than awesome locavore software, would it still be self-indulgent and self-important?

        You may answer that however you’d like (though I am morbidly curious to know if you’d see it differently).

        But from where I sit, there’s no difference whatsoever, and it’s not in the least bit self-anything. Whether people here make food, or furniture, or books (Amazon vs. Hachette is a non-theoretical analogy, in fact), or art, or screenplays, or software… in 2014, I don’t think it matters at all what form their output takes. What matters is that they are makers, they are our neighbors, they are making things right here in Bernal, they are putting a great deal of themselves into the products they create, and it’s not cool to see anyone get jerked around by a bigger entity that does so more or less because it can.

      • Thanks for the article Todd. I enjoyed reading about it and the story about a bus to CalTrain.
        Looking forward to Otis’ guest submissions to BW.

    • “This post already had 3 more responses than it deserved”, are you saying that this doesn’t make you sound bitter, Otis? Weird.

      And you obviously don’t follow this blog very closely because ALL of the good restaurants are in Bernal already, not the Inner Richmond 😉

  5. This just flew out of my fax machine:

    To: Todd Lappin and any other troublemakers
    From: Tim Cook that cool British Guy
    Re: The pending Bernalwood App

    Your app has been pre-removed from the App store. We don’t have to tell you why but take a look at unwritten rule 12/345.34.9: ” ” for some clues

    Submitting this app will cause us to remove other apps from your iPad or macbook that you really need like flipblog or wordbook. You will not be able to reinstall either.

    Finally – please don’t even try to get on a tech bus to caltrain – it will also remove you.


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