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[flagged] We launched an app with $500k annual revenue, and then Apple copied it (gopractice.io)
165 points by anastalaz 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 148 comments

This is some super click bait and borderline deceitful blog. Apps on iOS are sandboxed so you can't access data about other app's launch and usage. These apps were using MDM profiles to get that usage data. This also meant that the user's internet data was going through these third parties which is a pretty big privacy issue. Plus having MDM profiles gave these third parties enormous access to the user's device settings. It would allow all your children's phone data as well as device settings to be accessible to these 3rd parties. That's bad, exploitative of underage kids, against the TOS as well as using MDM profiles for wrong intentions. Using MDM profiles are only intended to be used for controlling employee and VPN access for filtering apps within an organization/company. They are not to be used for this purpose and as per the guidelines not to be used for consumer products. Same reason why Facebook's certificates was blocked because they were abusing the MDM profile for different purposes. This was clearly against Apple's policies and against the terms of developer agreement.

The author claiming it's because Apple is trying to eliminate competition forgot to mention any of the above very important reasons. They also forgot to mention that what they were doing was clearly against the app store guidelines which they had agreed to.

Looks like Apple released this info in a press release. NYT's poor journalism got called out too:


One could argue that Apple should provide an API which lets developers access to this data. Apple might be working on that or maybe they won't because Apple has a strict "privacy" policy and providing such sensitive data can be prone to being used by bad actors.

You'd think that, as reasonably smart people, you might stop and ask questions such as:

- Is this permitted within Apple's T&C's?

- What are the privacy issues? More so if I'm not fully informing my users we're intercepting their data via VPN (I don't know if that's made clear via author's T&C's or during installation)

- Even if all of the above were not concerns, am I able to properly secure user's data (against say state actors)

....even before going ahead and developing an app such as this.

> - Even if all of the above were not concerns, am I able to properly secure user's data (against say state actors)

Operating a VPN isn't any different than an ISP. Should that be a concerns for ISP too?

Most traffic nowadays is over HTTPS either way, so if that was even a concern, the ISP or VPN wouldn't be the cause of it, but the actual communication in itself.

Yeah, that jumped out at me too.

> We could set up a VPN service and analyze the traffic passing through our servers to learn which social media services mobile devices were communicating with, and using this data we could estimate the time spent on different services and block access to them when users exceeded their self-determined limits.

I mean, I use VPN services all the time. But doing that for an app to track social media usage? That's at least crazy, and arguably deceptive.

if it's done with the express consent of the user and the data is not sold, i don't see the problem. it's only a matter of who i trust with my usage data. if it's not the vpn, then it's my isp.

but, wouldn't a local 'fake' vpn be enough to capture all that locally on the phone? there is no need to send traffic to a remote server for this purpose. or does apple not allow that? it works fine on android.

iOS doesn't allow it, it's much more restrictive than Android when it comes to sandboxing. There's also no shared storage between apps, on iOS your have to transfer files from app to app.

It's especially weird to claim Apple is eliminating competition when it's replacing subscription-based apps (from which Apple gets a significant portion of the revenue) with a free feature. What are Apple supposed to be competing with, themselves?

I don't think I saw MDM mentioned anywhere on this blog. Yet, it's that key detail that made all the difference. I know there's a lot of functions that Apple restricts developers from accessing, but it's usually for a good reason.

Yea, same way as the original hit piece written by NYT few months ago didn't even have a single mention of VPN or MDM.

It is funny how you assume Apple is first party and it gets to decide who is trustworthy or not. It might be better at privacy when compared to other companies, but a for profit company can never be fair or even correct when making such decisions on privacy.

I am still willing to accept Apple's stance on privacy proven by their track record over some no reputation company which claims they got the idea from Onava (an app bought by Facebook to track users).

It is all relative. Maybe neither Apple nor this company is trust worthy, but there is a reasonable expectation on users part to expect Apple to protect their privacy (after all, users pay crap ton of money for their iPhones) more than a tiny, unknown company.

My understanding is that they were providing a VPN that did the tracking and blocking, without gaining any access to the actual device. I don't see how this article is related to MDM profiles or Apple's press release.

Am I missing something?

One of the points was that it was designed to stop you from “opening an app” based on certain criteria. The only way you can do that is with MDM on iOS.

I am confused by your use of quotation marks. That phrase is not contained in the article. You might be referring to this sentence?

> In addition to tracking the time spent on social media apps, we needed to implement the feature to block those apps when the user reached the configured time limit.

But "block those apps" is a perfectly sensible description of "blocking tcp certain connections at VPN level" and thus a very different statement to "stop you from opening an app".

Please actually check what was said before you pretend to quote someone.

In the screenshot of the notes app one of the bullet points said “....don’t allow me to open Facebook more than 5 times a day”

Bingo. There are several examples from years back where Apple copied an app and then removed it from the app store, but this isn't one of those times.

So you care to give such an example?

Camera+ and its VolumeSnap feature, f.lux and the Night Shift feature, Finder for locating your Air Pods, Coolpixel and screen recording. All of these apps offered features that were later integrated into iOS or other Apple offerings. Apple went so far as to send a demand letter to the f.lux devs demanding they stop offering the app for sideloading.

Hell, go back to the early jailbreaking days - Clippy before apple had cut & paste, SwirlyMMS for picture messaging. Apple's been stealing idea for ages.

Really? Apple “stole” the idea of cut copy and paste? That was a criticism from day one on the phone. The other was not supporting MMS.

It doesn't seem to have been obvious to Apple, considering it took them two full years after the iPhone's launch to implement the feature.

Well. You can go back and listen to podcast interviews by some of the early iPhone developers and they will tell you that they were thinking about that from day one.

But to think Apple - the company that had implemented copy and paste on Macs 23 years before then wasn’t thinking about copy and paste until they saw it on jailbroken phones is silly.

It’s equally crazy thinking that Apple didn’t think about implementing a standard phone feature until they saw in the jail broken apps.

And tried to make a compelling argument that MMS is passé. Everyone who needs MMS should use email instead.

Jobs also said that no one would want an iPod with video two years before Apple introduced one or an iPod + phone.

He also said that you could make great apps by using the web. Until they turned around and introduced a native SDK nine months later....

Are you now going to say they “stole” the idea of an App Store from the few developers who were putting apps on jailbroken iPhones between July 2007 and April 2008?

May I say the title should be taken with a grain of salt. From the article:

> A month before being removed from the App Store, the app raked in ~$45,000 in revenue. This means the product was operating at a $500,000 annual run rate.

It's an extrapolation, from the first month.

That plus they are talking about extrapolated "revenue". They didn't mention what the server costs were for having to handle the traffic of that many users. Server costs for such would be pretty high. Also other operating costs, development costs etc. Revenue doesn't matter, profit does.

I guess you aren't native english speaker. As a french speaker, I got bitten by it in the past. Revenu is the total income, you have probably profit in mind.

Yes - the comment you are replying to is making the point that revenue may be $500,000 (extrapolated) but if server costs are $1,000,000 then the app is losing money, not making money.

I see this trend quite frequently, only mentioning revenue but leaving out costs.

Yep. One thing which I have learnt from watching Shark Tank is that many companies would come with crazy valuations because they make millions in revenue. Only once questioned by the sharks would they disclose the much bigger operating costs and were severely bleeding money instead of profits.

To put it succinctly, "Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity".

Yep! Not to take away from what you said (which is absolutely true) the author does mention hitting profitability (assuming it is in 2018).

There are so many false friends with French and English. I really don't have the heart to tell my colleagues in France that 'Unicity' - which they named a whole big project after - isn't a word...

Huh? Seems like a word, linked below. https://www.thefreedictionary.com/unicity

TIL! It's must be a fairly obscure one though. My English speaking colleagues and I had never heard of it, and it's not here https://www.dictionary.com/misspelling?term=unicity

For a b2c app usually it is neither server cost nor Dev time being the main cost drivers but cpi campaigns. So you should have a way lower profit margin here than someone just looking at tech expenses might intuitively expect.

Why would there be server costs for an app that tracks local app usage on the phone?

Apps on iOS are sandboxed so no app has access to usage of other apps. They got around it by using a pretty forceful workaround of using VPNs to tunnel the data. The way they were tracking the app usage data was by making the user install a VPN profile so all the device's network traffic would be tunnelled through the developer's VPN servers. On the server, they would be able to track each network traffic and measure the device's app usage. Therefore the server cost which I am sure have to be very huge. Also a HUGE privacy and security issue. Apple was right to take these down as they were also against the app store guidelines for usage of MDM profiles for the wrong reasons.

Actually, this is not against Apple guidelines, they announced update on WWDC’19 in June, and now VPN apps can exist on Apple App Store again following these rules https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/#vpn... and https://developer.apple.com/news/?id=06032019j

It didn't actually directly track app usage locally, it tunneled all traffic through a VPN and tracked usage by monitoring network connections.

It's mind boggling that there is any good way for an app that just tracks your social media usage to make money when they have to tunnel all their user's internet usage. (Assuming they actually made any money on that $500k revenue...)

I really really doubt they made any money on $500k. Unless they developed the app themselves, hiring developers for such a complex app with backend itself would cost a few hundred thousand dollars.

Based on the story there are just 2 of them - founders, so not a lot of costs for devs.

It's an extrapolation from the last month which was the highest revenue they achieved and roughly estimating from the chart total lifetime revenue was ~$200K.

It seems like a fair estimate to me, especially given the fact that were growing but didn't extrapolate any growth.

On the flipside, this app looks like it was kind of a hack to get working. "Tunnel all of your traffic through our VPN to get tracking of social media use." It doesn't surprise me that Apple would want to offer first-party support.

Yep, it didn't seem like a viable business model. It's also a major security concern since it's not specifically selling a VPN solution, so the laymen user might not comprehend how the app works despite the app attempting to inform the user. I personally think it's naive to claim Apple copied their idea, since this was already something iOS and Android had support for from their related power management stats tracker.

Agreed, I came to say something similar. I'm typically rather sympathetic to stories like this, but this implementation seems very much like a sledgehammer approach that Apple correcting was very much in the best interest of their users.

Agree with the sentiment here. Whilst I have all the deepest sympathies for the guy, it does seem like a hack to tunnel it through a VPN to get it working. One could argue, the right approach would be if Apple opened up the hooks to measuring app usage for any 3rd party app, but I don’t think that will happen any time soon.

You would actually trust a third party app to track your usage?

Apple actually had to lock out Twitter and other apps from logging what other apps were on your phone for analytics.

Not only I've done it for years, it was also social, e.g. my friends could see it. The app doing that used to be called Wakoopa, now defunct.

IMHO, it was great!

If this is the same company, you couldn’t possibly be okay with this?


They dropped the original product long time ago.

a) Facebook used app usage data to acquire and crush competitors.

b) Advertisers could use it to personally identify you.

c) Criminals could use it to blackmail you e.g. using Tinder app whilst married.

This is because this would have been the only method to "block" access to the apps. Apple provides no API for other apps to "moderate" the opening of other apps, like Screen Time can do. This is a workaround because they were working in the sandboxed environment that is iOS.

I have an app on Android for ad blocking that simply runs the VPN server locally. Works perfectly fine. Of course that means all the juicy data isn't flowing through your startup, on the upside you won't wake up one day with an angry mob asking the attorney general to federally charge you for hijacking their communication under the false pretense of app usage tracking.

Oh definitely, I 100% agree. I'm not an expert enough on whether that's possible on iOS but I'm no supporter of them using the VPN argument as an excuse to siphon and sell the user data.

Yes. You can run a VPN locally and just configure it in settings.

and you won't have a large network traffic bill, making your app more profitable.

I'm not 100% committed to this idea, but VPNs all offer some trade-off between value and security, right? And, it seems weird that Apple, the company that continually finger points at Google and Facebook as invasive of privacy, would not support user choice here.

Their OS should permit VPNs and businesses running through VPNs, or they are in many ways doing the same thing that Google is doing with its changes to Chrome that break ad-blockers. In other words, they are removing options for users that want to have insight and control into their Internet usage.

Apple does “support VPNs”. There is a setting for it.

Settings -> General -> VPN.

But the article even said the company got the idea from Onava. A company that tracked your app usage and sold the data and that was bought by Facebook.

So, I'm unclear what happened here. They were exploiting a hole in the VPN setting of iOS? If it was a bad-actor VPN, then I support Apple doing what they did. If it was Apple not liking the business model of a VPN that competes with their own new OS-core functionality, then that's another black mark on the AppStore model. This company seems to be asserting the latter, no? Are they twisting the facts?

Apple isn’t making money off of their implementation. If the company wanted to sell a “VPN” service outside of the App Store, they could do that and just tell the user how to set it up.

Why would you want a third party to control your device?

iOS does support VPN's.

However this was a VPN in an attempt to get around a limitation/restriction of the OS.

Especially recently, I have had an issue with user choice. Since I feel like many (Google and Facebook largely, but apps like this on a smaller scale) don't fully communicate to a user what is actually happening to their data. Most of us here are technical and just seeing "all data through a vpn" know what that means, vast majority of people would not.

Any reasonably informed iOS developer could have told them that their implementation is seriously at risk of being rejected by Apple.

Apple could have just offered the app usage API, because it was obvioulsly lacking.

An API for allowing third parties access to your personal information is not a ”feature”.

Huh? Most useful APIs will allow access to some data/data source.

The whole point of computing is to work with interesting data and process it somehow.

It's up to the user whether he allows the app to both access interesting data and the network, or only allows the apps that can work with the data locally.

Also, this API would be much less sensitive than allowing apps to access contacts list, or whatever, for which the API already exists.

The application in question had access to all of your communications going to the internet from your device.

The whole purpose of computing is not to have access to all of your private information and to analyze it and sell it to third parties. They even admitted that their business model was fashioned after Onava’s that did just that and was bought by Facebook.

I was talking about Apple providing api to get information about screen time of other apps, so that these kinds of monitoring apps don't need such hacks.

This is also why Facebook bought Onava. Even without access via a VPN, that would have been enough information for Facebook to know that people were spending a lot of time on WhatsApp and to know that it was becoming popular. Would you be okay with that?

I feel like the novel uses for such an API don't outweigh the costs.

Even if Apple did provide such an API, the app in question also blocked access to social media apps via the VPN. My head would explode if Apple allowed apps to exercise direct control over others apps in such a fashion.

Sorry, I don't see it. If some app blocks access to other apps, when you don't want it, you simlpy uninstall it.

If that answer was adequate, Apple wouldn't have to audit apps to ensure they're not abusing the contacts permission.

The potential for abuse and erosion of user trust seems orders of magnitude larger than the apps we are missing out on by not having such an API.

I was writing specifically about (potential) app blocking API.

I'm not sure what user trust you're talking about, though. Apple allowed shady VPN tracking/blocking apps in the past and users used them.

I was responding generally about either API; my thoughts are similar.

My position is one of a cost/benefit ratio. VPNs have a lot of good use cases (enterprise networking, privacy from shady networks, etc) that outweigh the potential for harm.

Good use cases for apps exercising control over others are screen time monitors and parental controls? Maybe I’m being unimaginative, but that’s a narrow band of functionality better served by OS-level features.

> looks like it was kind of a hack

Where do you think you are?

This story has been repeated time and again. There is even a term, 'getting Sherlocked'.


The damning part to me is not so much that Apple copied it, but that they copied it, then removed their competitor from the app store.

It was removed as a part of a general thrust towards removing shady VPN apps. Onavo the VPN app that’s mentioned in the post was also removed from the App Store around the same time. The article is trying to spin the narrative of a causal connection between Apple removing their app from the App Store and then introducing the same feature in iOS, but that doesn’t seem to be the true.

Put a different way, they temporarily allowed this horrifically implemented app until they had a first party solution which wasn't a privacy dumpster-fire.

They were breaking the app store guidelines too of not using MDM profiles for consumer apps. Same reason Facebook got their MDM profiles revoked too.

This app pretty much goes against everything Apple is trying to achieve with 'Privacy First'. Personally, I would have never used it because routing all traffic through their vpn seems malicious in itself, but a non-tech savvy user may not understand the consequence of allowing that.

This blog post is worth a read REGARDLESS of if you think the app itself is a good idea (i.e. VPNing all of a user's traffic to track/block social media usage). There's a lot more here than the app itself/complaining about Apple.

For example they talk about getting their first users, techniques they tried for growth (ads, influencers, etc), and revenue streams. All matters of keen interest to anyone considering a startup/app.

I happen to agree with Apple on squishing this app. But I still find the blog worth while.

I know lots of people on HN aren’t a fan of patents- either because of patent trolls or because they believe that patents harm FOSS. So knowing that, I expect a few people to disagree with what I say.

This is exactly what patents are supposed to protect you from. If you have a good idea, then file a patent and protect yourself. If it’s worth $500k per year then it’s worth having a patent lawyer help you do it right. Get the core stuff patented, not just the fluff. This way Apple can’t just pull your livelihood from you.

If you tried to patent your idea and it wasn’t patentable, then it’s probably not really your idea, and you can’t feel bad when Apple steals something that isn’t yours.

But you have to do this sooner rather than later. If you wait until your app has become a feature in iOS then it’s too late.

Want proof that patents are necessary? Just look at how many patents that Apple, Samsung, SpaceX, etc. have.

But patents wouldn't protect them in this instance. Patents are explicitly for implementations, not abstractions/ideas. I highly doubt they could get a patent on an implementation sufficiently abstract that would block any statistical tracking/monitoring of app usage, or at least one that wouldn't run into prior art issues.

Apple isn't tunneling everything through a VPN to track it.

Unfortunately you touched on what makes this specific case a problem: Their solution is non-patentable. They failed to do a appropriate post-mortem of their business and instead resorted to blaming Apple for their failure.

Ideas aren't patentable. Execution/implementation of the tech is patentable and in this case, they would have to patent the use of VPN to track usage. That's easily by-passable as Apple doesn't need to do this via a VPN. They have built the tech in the iOS itself.

Same reason snapchat couldn't patent their stories or disappearing messages ideas and got copied by FB and Instagram.

Having a patent would solve the insult to injury of the feature being copied, but not the injury itself of the app being yanked off the store.

This app is spyware - it's no different to Facebook and Onavo in how it can be abused[0]

[0] https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/21/facebook-removes-onavo/

it's not spyware when tracking is the explicit intent of the app. that's a users choice. spyware is doing it covertly without telling the user.

I'm not sure Apple copied it. I think the idea to have a way to track and limit phone usage was pretty widespread, even 5 years back. I multiple time looked for an app like that.

The problem is that of security, and any app of the sort needs too many permissions over other apps. The VPN solution poses a big security risk to users as well. This really only makes sense as a first party feature.

Now, the part where Apple removed their app from their AppStore I find more strange. Was it breaking any of their rules?

> Was it breaking any of their rules?

The rule against using VPNs to gather usage data, which apparently is new.

Didn't know, but happy they have this in place now.

"Prior to its acquisition, Onavo had developed a mobile VPN app .. tracked app usage and sold this analytics to other developers."

"We decided to take a similar approach."

Pot. Kettle. Black.

This is the story of almost every other indie App developer with a good app idea/implementation , either you will be bought or destroyed.

(or rake in millions when you can to sustain for few more months)

You can also become Instagram, WhatsApp or one of the many other multi billion dollar companies.

Or does that not fit your narrative ?

> bought or destroyed

Fits the narrative precisely.

Pinterest, Snapchat, Uber, Spotify, Pandora, Candy Crush etc.

We can do this all day. Many of the top tech companies we have today exist because of mobile apps.

Instagram and Whatsapp were bought by Facebook.

Cached version since the HN traffic seems to have killed the original:


Two things I see here:

Apple didn't copy their app, they copied Android's.

Second, the VPN thing is shaddy AF. I understand this is a workaround but shit, they could be doing some nasty stuff with MITM attacks. No wonder Apple took it down once it was clear how it worked.

It's business. Not only that it's stated almost certainly when you get involved with the app store. Wouldn't make sense for Apple to do it any differently.

Apple did this in the 90's with peripherals such as video boards which at the time (80's/90's) were products that you almost always had to buy from a third party. Then Apple built them right into the hardware themselves. There is zero wrong with any company 'business' doing this. If you think there is you are not a business person. (Even if the competitors products are removed from the 'store').

There were other companies with a similar idea and product before these guys came along. "Location Labs" and "Life 360" come to mind.

> A month before being removed from the App Store, the app raked in ~$45,000 in revenue. This means the product was operating at a $500,000 annual run rate.

No, this means you had a revenue of $45k over one month (congrats! It’s a number to be proud of in itself). This artificial extrapolation of sales data to get attention grabbing headlines is so frustrating.

It's not like they launched a game like flappy bird that was a one-month hype and died out after, where launch-month revenue is not indicative of annual revenue.

They released it, then iterated on it for 1.5 years, at the end of which they were generating $45k a month. If anything, there's reason to believe it'd have topped the $500k. There's no guarantees but I don't think it was disingenuous to extrapolate in this case.

A lot of privacy paranoia in comments...probably super trendy now. Apple is fine with VPN based on their last update https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/#vpn...

Apple has had built in support for standard VPN protocols since iOS 4 - no app required. I expect to connect to a VPN to access internal company resources.

There are a lot of parental control apps that use vpn in the same way and it's okay...https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/screen-time-parental-control/i...

> I didn’t write this article. My wife, Lyuba Vyaznikova, did.

Then put her name in the byline!

"In mid-September 2016, we began the development process. In early December of 2016, the “Sense – Social Media Time Tracker” app made its debut in the App Store."

That's an incredibly fast build time!

I used to work for a mobile agency and we used to complete a decent sized app from concept to in-store in about a month.

Very easy if the tooling is good, the testing is easy (only a few device types) and it's only one target platform.

Stopped reading after the author mentions "$500,000 annual run rate" but the revenue chart shows nothing close to that. Nothing is more frustrating than clickbait titles.

I know Apple is less known to do this, but was there any approach from Apple for an acqui-hire your group and help develop a more strategic product from within Apple?

Apple’s implementation doesn’t intercept all of your communications.

Amazon does this all the time. Think AmazonBasics. Pretty killer business model if you ask me. Sucks for the little guy though. Good for consumers however.

As an end user, am I happy that Apple took your idea and built it in the OS, stripped of ads, premium features, tracking and analytics, etc? Yes, yes I am.

Honestly so am I, this sounds like a privacy nightmare. Sending all traffic through their servers specifically for the purpose of tracking what you're doing.

Isn't this one of the things Apple was upset at Facebook over (including the fact that they went around the App Store) since they don't allow this sort of tracking?

So maybe them building the feature is not the only reason they removed your app?

What is Apple’s app for tracking social network activity?

It's Screen Time and you can find it under Settings > Screen Time. It doesn't really track social network activity as much as iOS app usage by app categories (it can't tell if you were writing a post, browsing images, etc.).

Screen time, it's in the settings app.

This type of app would have been possible to build without a VPN on any other OS. Apple has chosen to make it difficult for anyone other than themselves to build such apps.

This is an abuse of market position in one market to expand in another, and has a long term negative effect on the health of the industry if only the large players that own the ecosystem can profit from it.

So you’re okay with all of your personal information going through a third party whose explicit aim is to monetize the analytics?

Do you really want 3rd party developers to be able to write apps that can introspect all other apps running on a phone?

Yes. "top" and "ps" are pretty useful tools.

Those are developer tools, so of course they need to do things you would never want Slack to do, for example. Also, Apple themselves ported Dtrace to MacOS. If you want the ultimate computing surveillance tool, Dtrace is a good bet.

Sandboxing apps (and implementing other strong security mechanisms) is not an abuse of market position.

Surely they had a meeting at some point and discussed and weighed this and many other risks.

I don't see anything wrong here. They just got a really frustrating outcome.


Can’t wait to hear the same complaint from authors of period tracker apps, once iOS 13 is released with the built-in period tracker.


Just kidding. But it seems that it’s the same mindset that likes the government replacing, say, private insurers, ISPs and other private enterprise.

As for me, I do not consider giant publicly traded corporations “private” any more than cities or states.


One can be both

Developers should care about the end user though.


Please don't do personal attacks on HN, even if you sense schadenfreude. It doesn't help, and only makes this place worse.


Is his argument wrong, though? It's unclear why we should automatically feel sympathy for the author.

I'm specifically referencing the clear schadenfreude.

I think that's fine. What's not fine is removing the app itself from the app store as it was generating $45k a year, the same week of releasing its competing app.

Either you remove it because it's against the TOS, anytime in the 1.5 years that the app existed, or leave it be. Don't 'coincidentally' remove it the same week you release a competing app. That's just nonsense.

I don’t care how much it was generating. It was a severe invasion of privacy. If that’s how they made their money, nothing of value was lost.

It's an invasion of privacy if the tracking is unsolicited. It's not an invasion of privacy if the tracking is the point of the app.

The app had paying users, it clearly had value to some people.

The average user will not understand the implications of the tracking. And even if the tracking is benevolent today, who's to say that won't change when the company is acquired in six months?

See Onava.

then it should have never been allowed in the first place

So Apple should have thought of every possible rule when the App Store opened in mid 2008?

well no, but the removal of permissions could come with some warning so that developers have time to adapt and find other ways to solve the problem. if the developers would have known ahead of time they would have been able to invest their efforts into other directions.

The problem is that the moment iOS released Screen Time, their app instantly sat in violation of the TOS. You cannot recreate built-in functionality.

I don’t know why this keeps coming up. There are apps that “duplicate” note, reminders, music, calendar, video, podcasts, etc.

There are even Siri Intents for most of them and many more in iOS 13.

It was removed after the feature was announced because that was also when they changed the App Store guidelines. Previously it did not violate the rules.

Each time I see one of these stories pop up, I'm hoping that the lawyer for the Apple Antitrust case is making a note to include these testimonials as evidence of a problem.

I can see the plaintiffs argument. Apple wouldn’t allow an app that spied on users and sold analytics.

This is about how anti virus makers threaten to sue MS because they wouldn’t allow the right hooks into the OS that destabilized it.

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