The “‘abandoned apps” crackdown last month announced by Apple – and a similar move by Google – could see a total of 1.5 million apps removed across the two app stores.

That would, according to a new report, amount to around a third of all available apps …

Background

Apple’s policing of abandoned apps – those which haven’t been updated for a long time – is not new. The company previously announced a similar purge back in 2016, though that one appeared to be focused on apps that were no longer fully functional with current devices

The notice to developers today indicates that Apple will begin reviewing and removing non-functional apps on September 7th within all categories from the App Store. Apps that automatically crash on launch will be immediately removed from the App Store, but other apps will have 30 days to submit an update to keep the app within the store.

That saw almost 50,000 apps removed.

Apple made its latest announcement last month.

Apple has been sending some developers an email titled ”App Improvement Notice,” warning that the company will remove from the App Store apps that haven’t been ”updated in a significant amount of time.”

Developers complained that this could see the removal of apps that remained fully functional, leading Apple to be more explicit about its removal criteria, as well as giving developers more time to comply.

As part of the App Store Improvements process, developers of apps that have not been updated within the last three years and fail to meet a minimal download threshold — meaning the app has not been downloaded at all or extremely few times during a rolling 12 month period — receive an email notifying them that their app has been identified for possible removal from the App Store.

The company also stressed that this was not a new policy; it was simply alerting developers to an existing policy.

Impact of abandoned apps crackdown

CNET reports that Pixalate used analytics data to estimate the number of apps liable to be culled.

These “abandoned” apps constitute one-third of the combined app catalogs of the App Store and Play Store, according to the report from analyst firm Pixalate. Google’s store had around 869,000 apps that had been neglected for more than two years, while Apple’s store had around 650,000 […]

Plenty of apps are more up to date, per the report, with 68% of apps on both stores, or over 3.1 million apps, updated within the last two years. Apps that updated more frequently tended to be those with far more downloads: 84% of the apps with over 100 million downloads had been updated in the last six months. 

We noted earlier in the year that we’re also seeing many Apple Watch apps disappear – though in that case it is developers deciding that they are no longer worth the effort of maintaining them.

We can officially add Uber to the long list of major brands that have abandoned their Apple Watch apps. The ride-sharing company has quietly discontinued its watchOS app, displaying a brief message to users who try to launch it. Uber joins Twitter, Instagram, Target, Trello, Slack, Hulu, Evernote, and many other companies that have sunset their Apple Watch apps.

I expressed my own view at the time that this was neither surprising nor worrying.

Many Watch apps simply made no sense. Rather than providing timely access to relevant information, or a one-touch way to do something useful (like unlock a door), they made the apps too complex, requiring too much interaction. Far from making something more convenient than using an iPhone app, they made it more awkward and time-consuming.

Photo: Jeremy Bezanger/Unsplash

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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