Developer disputes Apple's take on 'FlickType' removal

in General Discussion edited September 17
Kosta Eleftheriou, developer and vocal App Store critic, says it took a year of appeals to get his "FlickType" Apple Watch keyboard approved, with those hard-fought gains potentially wiped clean now that Apple "Sherlocked" the app.


Apple introduced the QuickPath keyboard during the unveiling of Apple Watch Series 7 on Tuesday. The feature displays a full QWERTY keyboard on Watch's diminutive display and allows users to slide a finger to type, with on-device machine learning leveraged to anticipate subsequent words.

FlickType, which was introduced in 2019 and unceremoniously pulled from the App Store for violating then-active guidelines restricting keyboards on Watch, uses a very similar swipe-to-type mechanism and user interface. In response to the introduction of QuickPath, Eleftheriou posted an App Store rejection letter from 2019 to Twitter and referenced an ongoing lawsuit related to the matter.

In a lawsuit filed against Apple in March, Eleftheriou lobbed allegations of fraud, abuse of monopoly power, and enablement of scam apps. As it pertained to FlickType, the developer claims he was approached by Apple over a potential acquisition, but when negotiations stalled, the app was denied for seemingly no apparent reason. FlickType would go on to sustain "repeated, unwarranted, & unreasonable rejections."

Apple in a statement to AppleInsider disagreed with Eleftheriou's retelling, noting that while the app was initially rejected, it fairly quickly allowed an updated version onto the App Store after considering a resubmission that included an explanation of its accessibility functions.

On Thursday, the developer hit back and in a statement to The Verge said it took a year of resubmissions and appeals to get FlickType to users.

"From [January 2019] on, I was simultaneously discussing a FlickType acquisition with them, while also being rejected," he said.

Eleftheriou also expanded on claims regarding Apple's interest in the software. He said that the company's chief keyboard engineer appreciated the app, exclaiming that "Apple should buy this from you" because it "could be a key feature for the watch." The developer demoed the app for the Apple Watch team on Jan. 24, 2019, but that night received a message from Apple saying FlickType would be removed for violating App Store guidelines.

In his lawsuit, Eleftheriou paints a picture of suppression, alleging that Apple continued to reject FlickType to force a sale "at a discount."

For its part, Apple in 2019 revised its guidelines to allow Watch keyboards in light of the larger screen provided by Apple Watch Series 4. The company notes a number of keyboard apps are now available, adding that FlickType was highlighted as one of the top paid apps of 2020.

Eleftheriou has not been appeased, however, and in August discontinued FlickType's iPhone feature for blind users, citing a bungled App Store review. Apple told AppleInsider that it believes the accessibility keyboard falls within its rules and welcomes Eleftheriou to resubmit the app.

That scenario is unlikely to play out, according to the developer's statement to The Verge.

"I will be delighted to bring back the accessible FlickType Keyboard for iPhone when Apple finally fixes their broken 3rd-party keyboard APIs on iOS and allows developers to fairly compete with Apple's own keyboard," he said. "They must also ensure that every single reviewer has basic VoiceOver training - we keep getting rejections due to reviewers not knowing or even understanding how to use VoiceOver."

He goes on to say that he's "really looking forward" to improvements regarding the App Store review process and Apple's keyboard API, which has "countless" issues. FlickType VoiceOver will be resubmitted once Apple makes progress in those areas. He also calls on Apple to enable developer access to their respective rejection histories.

Read on AppleInsider


  • Reply 1 of 6
    Jesus Christ this pest is just exhausting. We all know he's just hoping for a settlement to go away. Worse scum than patten trolls. 
  • Reply 2 of 6
    Doubt he wins, but I hope he keeps pointing out how ridiculous the App Store is. 600/year scammy pedometer app? There's at least 12 of them. Why the hell would you pay Apple for the App Store if they allow that kind of drek in.
  • Reply 3 of 6
    I feel for the developer in regards to Apple’s poor developer communications and processes yet again.

    However Apple is allowed to change their guidelines at any time and I think all developers by now should know if you choose to create a product which is really just a feature or extension of the OS, you are likely to get Sherlocked.
  • Reply 4 of 6
    michelb76 said:
    Doubt he wins, but I hope he keeps pointing out how ridiculous the App Store is. 600/year scammy pedometer app? There's at least 12 of them. Why the hell would you pay Apple for the App Store if they allow that kind of drek in.
    Those apps are crappy but not scams. An example of a scam app was the one (forget the name) that offered to do a heart rate by having users place their finger on the home button then billing them for iaps. These $600 a year are upfront about their cost it's not like they are saying it's $10 a year then charging $600 that would also be a scam. Many people think iaps for loot boxes or in game currency is a scam and clearly isn't. 
  • Reply 5 of 6
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,364member
    Here's the thing, as a developer myself, I do feel for the fact that he put time and effort into creating an app, only to have it made obsolete.  But, I would never have developed a keyboard app in the first place because:

    • I myself have an inherent distrust of 3rd party keyboards due to the potential for logging my keystrokes.  And I know Apple feels the same way, which is why they didn't allow them until they'd analyzed all the ways this could be done and blocked them.  And is also the reason why, when he found a unique way to implement one, they blocked his app until they could determine that what he was doing wasn't going to be a security problem.
    • I'd assume that Apple would add one eventually and my app would be obsolete (as what happened here).  And no, I wouldn't assume that Apple would buy me out for a relatively small app like a keyboard (as he did).

    I actually had an app I spent about a year working on made obsolete by another company with deeper pockets, and I just took it off the app store and started working on another one.  Competition happens.

    edited September 17 mariowincoFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 6
    A few things:

    Swipe keyboards suck.  If I touch a keyboard in the wrong place and then move to the right place, I want the right letter to appear, not the wrong one followed by the right one.  Having to tap delete twice for what wouldn't have even been a typo on a sane keyboard is awful.  Keep that garbage off my phone and any other phone I ever have to touch.

    Keyboard apps should be internet sandboxed by default.  NO internet access whatsoever.  You're just asking to be hit with a keylogger.  If a keyboard app wants internet access, the OS should put up at least three full screen, bright red, flashing, bold DANGER text confirmation dialogs before it's allowed to get it.  And the dialog should have the option to delete the app, because any keyboard app asking for internet access is almost certainly malware and should be deleted.

    Apple's app store monopoly MUST be broken.  I should be able to install software from any source of my choosing on MY iPhone.  That's NOT incompatible with properly handled security in any way.
Sign In or Register to comment.