PCalc 3.3.2 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)

Apple today asked PCalc developer to remove its Notification Center widget after it was previously approved in the App Store. The reason? Notification Center’s Today widgets are apparently prohibited from performing any calculations, according to the company’s email to developer James Thomson.

Thomson took to Twitter where he shared the news with the world. “Apple has told me that Notification Center widgets on iOS cannot perform any calculations, and the current PCalc widget must be removed,” reads the tweet.

It’s somewhat surprising Apple would take an issue with PCalc’s Today widget after approving the app more than a month ago. Besides, PCalc’s iOS 8 update, along with the widget, has been widely covered in media and Apple itself has featured it in two sections on the App Store, “Extend Your Apps” and “Great Apps and Games for iOS 8”.

So what’s going on here?

For starters, this is what PCalc’s Today widget looks like.

PCalc 3.3.2 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 003, Today widget)

It’s pretty neat and useful, in my personal opinion.

It’s all too easy to diss Apple over the decision to have the app’s widget functionality removed. After all, its own Calculator app for Yosemite includes a Today widget. Today widgets on iOS 8 should be designed to help users “get a quick update or perform a quick task in the Today view of Notification Center”, according to Apple’s official documentation for iOS app developers.

The definition is, needless to say, very subjective.

For instance, does Apple consider performing numerical calculations a quick task? We don’t know because app review guidelines are short on specifics. Conventional wisdom has it that a quick calculation = a quick task. But then again, Apple goes on to advise against building Today widgets for performing lengthy tasks.

“If you want to create an app extension that enables a multistep task or helps users perform a lengthy task, such as uploading or downloading content, the Today extension point is not the right choice,” reads the document.

PCalc 3.3.2 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 002)

Curiously enough, Apple cited that exact rule to defend its recent removal of Launcher’s Today widget, which allowed folks to launch actions such as making a phone call, sending a tweet or opening a Maps route right from the Notification Center.

True, Apple’s documentation for developers has many instances of ambiguous topics and this one for sure leaves a lot to interpretation. That said, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that calculator widgets are a big no-no on iOS 8. Surprisingly enough, Apple has no issues whatsoever with PCalc’s Today widget for the Notification Center in OS X Yosemite.

If you’re interested, PCalc for the iPhone and iPad costs $9.99 (the Mac edition is an additional $9.99) and people swear it’s one of the best, if not the best, calculator apps on the App Store.

Could it be that PCalc is simply using code which Apple’s app guidelines prohibit?

What’s your stance on the matter?

Do you agree that calculator widgets should have no business  in iOS 8’s Notification Center? Or has  PCalc fallen prey of yet another arbitrary app rejection, do you think?

[Twitter via MacRumors]

  • Merman123

    Dammit apple. They keep dumbing down widgets.

    • Ian Leon

      this is the kind of crap that makes me want to forget apple and get a nexus 6

      • Matt

        Same here

      • Aman Badhan

        Not seen the One Plus One?

      • Matt

        Don’t really care for it. The only brand for phones other than Apple would be Sony because I persoanlly have had a good experience with their products and I like them as a company.

      • Fraught

        What’s the point of saying “Same here” to what Ian Leon said if you’re still just a blind fanboy who doesn’t give the competition a chance?

        “and I like them as a company”

        top kek

      • RarestName

        Giant slab like the Note 3?

    • Antzboogie

      This is kind of dumb and this widget looked awesome. Hope the Pangu Jailbreak comes out with something to fix this.

  • ClaudieX X

    someone can give the most mature answer possible of why Apple is so in panic about the widgets ???

    • yungcinnabun

      Well it all starts when a widget sends a p61 signal to the kernel which activates the m64 ghost ram then after that happens this opens up the security on ur phone leaving you liable to….no I’m kidding I have no idea

      • Bugs Bunnay

        you’re actually half correct!

      • OMQ12

        no not even

    • My guess would be for this particular widget that a calculator and quick access to a calculator is provided within control centre and something like pcalc would take away the need for people to use apples built in solution and as we know Apple doesn’t like us using alternatives to inbuilt apps

  • Jonathan

    That is just beyond stupid.

  • Umut Bilgiç

    Chill bro it is just a calculator

    • rockdude094

      You probably don’t use one everyday

      • Umut Bilgiç

        I actually do, but I really want to know how you interpreted such a thing 😀 ?!?

      • rockdude094

        Just wondering who wouldn’t want this in their notification centre. We should jus chill, you’re right.

    • Seth Forbus

      Its not about the calculator. Its about freedom. People want to choose what they want to use, they don’t want Apple to choose for them.

  • RarestName

    It seems that Apple has managed to switch their limitation status on widgets from tolerable to just plain stupid.

  • At this point there’s been no reason to include widgets. You can’t do much with any of them. And the ones you would like to see be made, they wouldn’t pass. It was all part of the IOS 8 hype train. This goes hand in hand with keyboards, those are a giant mess up too. IOS 8 put in a lot of why people jailbreak in the first place and yet Apple has only put a small taste of what those features should be.

  • Y4VIN

    I strongly predict these exclusions are simply because apple plans to release widgets for most of their apps and calc will be one of them. they don’t want anyone getting ahead of them because they want every bit of wow factor from every update they do in order to boost future sales. I don’t blame them.

    Edit: also, pcalc is overpriced…c’mon pcalc.

    • Harold

      it was the first thing that crossed my mind

      • kron1k 

        I just bought a cheap calculator at the store for $5

    • PCalc lite has a widget too 😉

  • AnArcticMonkey

    Seriously piss off Apple this is getting ridiculous. Not that I am going to use a calculator widget, but why is this being removed?

  • Anonymous

    Still an Apple fan but, this dose seem a bit extreme on Apple’s part. At least on the surface there most likely is a deeper cause. If not Apple will change in time due to competition. In the mean time I’ll bee jailbreaking like always.

  • Burge

    Then why are there so many of them. And why did apple approve them in the first place

    • This is what I don’t get. There should be a rule against pulling apps that have passed review unless not pulling the app would endanger the user. Someone approved PCalc and its widget so why force them to remove or dumb it down now?

    • JENNIFER7

      But I won’t ha ha I’m just gonna stick to this 5s until 6s

  • onesimpleclik

    Apple wants to steal the idea of having a calculator widget for themselves

  • Andrew

    Yet there’s a calc widget on OS X perntalled by Apple.

  • Ian Leon

    I don’t get it , they remove all the widgets I can actually find use for

    • I think that’s the point. By the sound of things Apple doesn’t want widgets to actually do anything except for be static items in the notification center that display information…

  • rockdude094

    Apples probably like hey dude.. Like we were going to add this into ios 10 !

    • Haha, just like they did with flashlight apps, taking pictures with the volume buttons, and now with Widgets…

  • Firedomain

    I reckon they removed it coz it takes people away from using apples calculator from the control center.
    Pathetic apple…. I love the company, but the stupid shit they do sometimes….

  • DogeCoin

    I suspect that it has to do with escape characters and stack overflows. If you can enter almost anything, and there is a bug, you could escape the sandbox.

    • At worst you could crash the calculator app (PCalc). Breaking the iOS sandbox is a very rare and difficult thing to do and if you do happen to do so you could probably develop a jailbreak…

      • DogeCoin

        Remember, a font escaped the safari sandbox.

      • Didn’t say it’s impossible I said it was rare and difficult and likely not the reason for its AppStore removal…

      • Fraught

        ermagerrrrd a font D’:

    • Beta382

      This sounds like it’s coming from someone attempting to sound smart, but who has no knowledge about computer science.

      You meant “buffer overflow” there. Stack overflow happens when, among other things, you recurse too deep. Buffer overflow happens when you don’t perform bounds checking on a data buffer (typically an array) allocated on the stack, which allows a user to overwrite data beyond the allocated array, which can include the stored return address for the function you are in. By overwriting this, when you return from the function you are in, you will return to the now overwritten address. This usually will cause a segfault, but if maliciously crafted, it can resume execution at the beginning of the array allocated on the stack, and thus execute any instructions which you may have been able to create in the space allowed.

      The input is controlled to pressable buttons. The user isn’t presented with a keyboard, so your range of input is greatly limited. Even if your input was stored in a data buffer with a missing bounds check, you a) wouldn’t be able to enter the full range of byte values, and b) wouldn’t have enough usable space for your shellcode.

      Anyways, even if a user application had a missing bounds check and a buffer overflow was possible, it wouldn’t be able to get outside of the sandbox without a host of other hacks. You’d just get killed.

      If anything, you could divide by zero, which would be special-cased caught and wouldn’t cause a crash.

      • DogeCoin

        The text book case of recursion is a math function, factorial. In any case, this is simply a larger attack surface. Remember these are the same people that had their sandbox escaped with a font.

      • Beta382

        Stack overflow is not exploitable. It just causes a crash, since you run out of stack space. Buffer overflow is exploitable.

  • Bugs Bunnay

    am I the only that thinks (at least for now) that the notification center is that it’s just for notifications? there really shouldn’t be anything else except notifications. and then this is where jailbreaking comes in if you really want it. I don’t think apple did anything wrong here.

    • I disagree. For starters Apple isn’t very specific on their widget policy and policy is everything if you’re an indie app developer making a neat widget to sell to people only to find out that the months of hard work you’ve put in are void due to an incorrect interpretation of Apples policy…

      • Bugs Bunnay

        I guess you’re right, but there’s always a “terms subject to change” somewhere hidden in the policy.

    • Fraught

      So you agree Apple shouldn’t embrace new things and make their OS more useful just because of a…god damn semantics issue? Because it’s called the “notification” centre?

      That is just about the stupidest comment on this article that I’ve read.

      • Bugs Bunnay

        after some years passed by i’d like to answer that question of yours. yes. because of semantics. a notifications center should stay, just that, a notification center. if it wasn’t then well, why not make a phone call on the notification center? why not put maps on it. i’m sure you get the idea. because of semantics is that you think this is the stupidest comment on this article you’ve read. alright buddy.

  • Dj Stef

    i dont get why they would remove the whole app instead of just the widget?? are they trying to punish him also for fun? apple is fuking ridiculous, they try to be so all about the law/security bla bla bull shit. they are VERY ANAL people! very anal…

    • Harold

      Lool. Anal ppl. Im deadddd hahaha

  • What’s the point of implementing widgets to iOS if you’re gonna just remove them one by one. Pathetic.

  • Clear

    Maybe there’s a reason for Apple doing this. Maybe there is a bug or there is some security issue?

  • chris125

    Apple doesn’t want widgets period. They don’t want to open up their OS and it is showing with the more and more things they lock down and do not allow. This is actually something that would be really useful. Oh well, maybe for IOS15 they will allow these things.

  • Kevin Guzman

    I don’t get why people are mad at Apple for taking down the calculator widget. They’re removing it because they don’t want an excess of developers creating widgets for things like opening apps or performing other tasks that have NOTHING to do with the notification center.

    I purchased PCalc and am currently using the widget, but I can totally see other stupid apps creating widgets that have nothing to do with the Today view in notifications. I don’t have a problem with Apple blocking these apps from creating widgets. Apple is known for doing stuff like this, I’m actually shocked iPhone users are surprised by this.

    • Andy

      It’s not really the app developers’ fault that Apple decided to include widgets only in Notification Center. If they were clear from the start that widgets can only do certain things, then developers wouldn’t waste their time trying to include a widget for their app (heck, Apple approved it for the App Store) only for Apple to tell them to remove it in their next update.

  • Typical herd master…

  • Christian

    I think everybody is working for Apple now. Apple wants our ideas, and then, they get the reward $$$ and we finally pay… is a vicious circle.

  • Noah

    Just when I thought Apple couldn’t get any stricter (iOS wise)…

  • Teo springer

    So… Apple bans calculator widgets on iOS 8 to prevent peasants from calculating how shitty the specs are on their iCraps.