The Problem with Abandoned Apps

Marc Zeedar:

I’ve used iOS apps since the App Store first opened in 2008. As a software developer, the market fascinated me. There was the initial flurry of simple apps, followed by more sophisticated apps. Then the iPad came along, providing a bigger screen for even more powerful apps. The future for apps seemed bright.

Today things have become vastly more complicated: multiple devices with different screen sizes and hardware capabilities, different operating system versions, and many more software APIs. (And that’s just iOS.)

Along the way, we’ve seen changes in business models. At first, most apps charged a fee up front. Then, some apps explored the ad model, while others had separate free “light” and paid “pro” versions. Later, when Apple added in-app purchases, the freemium model became commonplace, with the app being free to download but certain features requiring payment.

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But we’ve now reached a point where I believe the App Store will either morph into something genuinely useful or fade away as a fad.

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I don’t mean that the App Store itself will go away — it won’t — but it could disappear as a business opportunity for most developers.

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[Starting] with iOS 9, performing a backup with iTunes no longer copies apps to your computer. To restore an app, you must redownload it from the App Store. But if Apple has removed the app for being too old or not 64-bit, the app is gone — there’s no way to download it again!

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Because Apple exercises total control over which apps are allowed to run and how you get and install them, there is no way to get abandoned apps to work (short of jailbreaking, which introduces its own set of non-trivial problems).

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And because iOS doesn’t give users access to the file system, and apps themselves are sandboxed (meaning that one app can’t access another app’s data), if you have data in an abandoned app, that data is most likely inaccessible.

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While I think iOS is highly capable and could be a person’s only computer, I’ve already been hit so many times by abandoned apps that I’ve become wary. I no longer think of iOS as a “professional” environment