Apple threatened to pull Amphetamine macOS app over branding

Posted:
in Mac Software edited January 2
The developer behind the macOS app Amphetamine was warned by Apple that the app was going to be purged from Mac App Store for violating one of the App Store Guidelines due to its name -- but Apple reversed its course after the developer appealed the matter.




Dating back to 2014, Amphetamine is an app that is used to keep a Mac awake, preventing macOS from going to sleep. So far, it has been offered on the Mac App Store for six years, but it seems that Apple itself may be preparing to remove it from view entirely, due to its branding.

Posted on Friday to Github, William Gustafson claims an Apple representative got in contact on December 29th, with the threat of removing the app from the Mac App Store. Apple deemed the app was in violation of its App Store Guideline, and it would be delisted on January 12 unless changes were made to the app.

The guideline at issue is 1.4.3, stating "Apps that encourage consumption of tobacco or vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol are not permitted on the App Store. Apps that encourage minors to consume any of these substances will be rejected. Facilitating the sale of marijuana, tobacco, or controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies) isn't allowed."

Specifically, Apple claims the app "appears to promote inappropriate use of controlled substances. Specifically your app name and icon include references to controlled substances, pills."

To avoid being in violation, Gustafson would have to effectively rebrand Amphetamine completely, an action that would make it harder for existing users to keep track of the app for future updates. It would also eliminate any benefits from its existing brand awareness, as that would not carry over to the new app's title.

The timing of the demand for a rebrand is curious, as the app has been in the Mac App Store without issue for six years, and has achieved over 432,800 downloads and a 4.8 out of 5 rating in the US Mac App Store from over 1,400 reviews. Apple itself has even promoted the app in a Mac App Store Story.

Gustafson believes Amphetamine is not in violation of the guidelines. "It is also my belief that there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way as me, and want to see Amphetamine.app continue to flourish without a complete re-branding," the developer writes.

"How is it that, in all of the interactions I have had with Apple employees (hundreds? dozens?) over the last 6 years with regard to Amphetamine, not a single one of them has been offended by Amphetamine's name or icon?" asks Gustafson. "Why is the name and icon offensive or dangerous today, but not last week?"

Gustafson also mentions how Amphetamine's updates have been rejected in the past, but more for technical reasons than for the brand, such as "Preview" screen shot rejections or an objection to a default app behavior in the user interface.

"It is apparent that Apple is indeed paying attention when reviewing apps, and not just blindly approving apps without a real review," he adds. "Not once has Amphetamine's name or icon been called into question despite 41 app updates/submissions to Apple for review."

An appeal to the Guidelines violation accusation has been filed with Apple, but Gustafson doesn't have "much faith in Apple reversing course" based on the appeal on its own. If Apple maintains its decision, Gustafson says he will either work on a rebranded version of the app to get back into the Mac App Store as soon as possible, or to keep raising awareness "of Apple's actions" and wait for Apple to change its mind.

Later on January 2, Gustafson was contacted by an Apple representative about his appeal, which was accepted. The app will remain available to download in the Mac App Store without changes.

Thanking followers of the app, Gustafson tweeted "We may not all agree, but I am happy we all still have the freedom to express ourselves today."

Just got off a call with @Apple. Appeal accepted and Amphetamine will remain on the @AppStore. Thank you all for your comments, opinions, and action. We may not all agree, but I am happy we all still have the freedom to express ourselves today. pic.twitter.com/PV7eB9aUfn

-- William C. Gustafson (@x74353)


Update January 2, 2:45 PM Eastern Time: Apple has agreed to keep the Amphetamine app in the Mac App Store.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 1,981member
    I pass judgment of the name itself, but this exactly is what keeps catching the ire of regulators, and getting Apple into hot water. Something that has apparently been fine for years is suddenly not, either due to a reinterpretation of the existing rules which haven’t changed; or more likely someone in a higher position at Apple has noticed the name and doesn’t like it. It’s not fair. 

    At least the dev can continue to offer their app outside the App Store. I don’t know anyone who actually uses the Mac App Store anyway, I never do as I can’t stand the babying the sandboxing enforces. 
    edited January 2 The_MactrixOfermarklark
  • Reply 2 of 34
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,094administrator
    elijahg said:
    I pass judgment of the name itself, but this exactly is what keeps catching the ire of regulators, and getting Apple into hot water. Something that has apparently been fine for years is suddenly not, either due to a reinterpretation of the existing rules which haven’t changed; or more likely someone in a higher position at Apple has noticed the name and doesn’t like it. It’s not fair. 

    At least the dev can continue to offer their app outside the App Store. I don’t know anyone who actually uses the Mac App Store anyway, I never do as I can’t stand the babying the sandboxing enforces. 
    Regular AI readers generally do not use the app store, other than a periodic steep sale on something.

    However, there are uses for it in education, enterprise, and the "computer as appliance" crowd. Those folks outnumber regular AI readers by a great deal.
    lkruppstompyOferronnwatto_cobramuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 3 of 34
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,451member
    0 days since Apple last caused unnecessary headaches for their developers
    Oferelijahgmarklarkmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 4 of 34
    Never heard of it but quickly downloaded it now before it's gone, looks like an amazing app.
    Oferwatto_cobramarklark
  • Reply 5 of 34
    I see Apple’s position, but a better response might be, “why weren’t these features already built into the OS?”
    elijahgbaconstangwatto_cobramarklarkseanjurahara
  • Reply 6 of 34
    kpomkpom Posts: 653member
    There used to be an app called Caffeine that did something similar. I think it was last updated in 2010, so it likely doesn’t work or won’t work much longer if it still does. 
  • Reply 7 of 34
    elijahg said:
    I pass judgment of the name itself, but this exactly is what keeps catching the ire of regulators, and getting Apple into hot water. Something that has apparently been fine for years is suddenly not, either due to a reinterpretation of the existing rules which haven’t changed; or more likely someone in a higher position at Apple has noticed the name and doesn’t like it. It’s not fair. 

    At least the dev can continue to offer their app outside the App Store. I don’t know anyone who actually uses the Mac App Store anyway, I never do as I can’t stand the babying the sandboxing enforces. 
    Just as a point of interest... just because an app is not available for distribution in the Mac App Store, does not mean that the developer of the App has not "sandboxed" it.  This is an option when writing the App in Xcode and a developer can choose whether to sandbox it or not.  ;-)
    stompyRayz2016ronnbaconstangwatto_cobramarklark
  • Reply 8 of 34
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 733member
    I see Apple’s position, but a better response might be, “why weren’t these features already built into the OS?”
    Why didn't the OS catch it? AI isn't smart enough to be as dumb of as humans. 

    From what I can tell AI is catching up. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 34

    I see Apple’s position, but a better response might be, “why weren’t these features already built into the OS?”

    Amen!  There are plenty of people who want normal power save functionality to be in effect when they are not doing something special... like rendering a video.  Nobody likes to change the settings all the time when they want to ensure that their Mac does not fall asleep 1 hour into a 20 hour video render.  Just launch the program... and you are good to go.  It is maddening that apple does not do what many of the seasoned Mac Heads think is important.  Personally, I am still waiting for a universal junk mail feature... or at least the opportunity to opt in to one.  I know that this would not be something that everybody would want...because some people have work machines and some have personal machines... and there could be differences in the junk mail preferences that follow that paradigm.  If they can synch all kinds of other things through iCloud...why not junk mail rules and tagging?  LOL.
    retrogustobaconstang
  • Reply 10 of 34
    This is always the first app I install on my new Macs since Caffeine stopped being actively developed.  Apple needs to get their heads out of their collective ass on this one.  The app has been around for a long time and there is not nor has there ever been anything truly questionable about the app or its branding.
    Ofermarklarkstevedownundermuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 11 of 34
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,425member
    The bigger message here is that App Store approval is inherently provisional and subject to revocation at any time based on Apple’s discretion. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but simply a reminder. I don’t have a problem with this as long as everyone who has a stake in Apple’s ecosystem is fully aware of the terms and conditions up-front.
    Oferwatto_cobramarklarkmaximaramuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 34
    neilmneilm Posts: 855member
    The solution is simple: rebrand it as Cocaine.
    /s
    Oferwatto_cobramarklark
  • Reply 13 of 34
    n2macsn2macs Posts: 81member
    The guideline at issue is 1.4.3, stating "Apps that encourage consumption of tobacco or vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol are not permitted on the App Store. Apps that encourage minors to consume any of these substances will be rejected. Facilitating the sale of marijuana, tobacco, or controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies) isn't allowed."

    Apple states above “(except for licensed pharmacies)” Amphetamines can only be legally subscribed by a pharmacy.
    ronnbaconstangwatto_cobraseanj
  • Reply 14 of 34
    Just bail. The mac app store is a joke, and being a part of it only helps give it a legitimacy it doesn't deserve. The trouble of conforming to ever shifting rules, and seeking approval for each release, is not worth the hassle in the slightest. 
    Oferelijahg
  • Reply 15 of 34
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,291member
    I tweeted at Tim Cook with a link to this article and I made the point that this is just a stupid bonehead move that has no bearing on reality.  I encourage others to do similarly. If it shows up enough in his inbox maybe he’ll look into it and help the manager who initiated this dumb action to rethink it. 
    elijahgmarklark
  • Reply 16 of 34
    dexydexy Posts: 1member
    Maybe “Brain Ticklers” would pass?  So may slang terms for “Amy.”
  • Reply 18 of 34
    Love the app, hated the name ever since I switched from Caffeine.

    It’s still the coffee icon for me and I would have preferred Apple not to get involved and the name changed. Looks like we have Apple involved and the name stay. Oh well.
    watto_cobrauraharalotones
  • Reply 19 of 34
    I agree with those that think it should be part of the OS.  Preferably something that can be done with a keyboard shortcut.

    While I'm here, I'd love to see a setting added to iOS that would prevent the camera from turning on unless the iPhone is unlocked.
    It's way too easy to accidentally turn on the camera when the phone is put in your pocket.
    lotones
  • Reply 20 of 34
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 2,884member
     Apps that encourage consumption of tobacco or vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol are not permitted on the App Store.”

    Maybe Apple should look at the drugs Dexedrine, or Evekeo. Totally legal prescription drugs used to treat medical conditions such as  narcolepsy. I’ll let people guess what the active ingredient is. 
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