Here’s how Apple chooses to remove abandoned apps

Have you ever wondered how Apple defines “outdated” App Store apps or how the company chooses which such apps and games it should yank from the store?

App Store banner showing a bunch of app icons
  • Apple’s decision to nuke “zombie” apps out of orbit—that is, outdated apps and those that haven’t been updated in a long time—has angered some developers.
  • In response to those concerns, Apple has given developers a longer appeal time than before, extending the deadline from 30 days to 90 days.
  • Apple has also explained its definition of abandoned apps to help developers better understand how the company chooses to remove them.

How Apple chooses to remove App Store apps

Apple is periodically removing abandoned apps and games from the App Store. This effort, internally called the App Store Improvements process, has been in place since at least September 2016, Apple explains. Read: How to clear the App Store cache

Back in 2016, to ensure a great user experience and at the suggestion of developers, we launched the App Store Improvements process to remove apps that no longer function as intended, don’t follow current review guidelines or are outdated. This helps us ensure apps work for the vast majority of users and support our latest innovations in security and privacy.

Since the program’s inception, Apple has removed almost 2.8 million apps.

Low download count

Recently, developers cried foul as Apple threatened to remove their outdated apps and games which do work on new hardware but haven’t been maintained. Apple has responded by publishing a post on its Apple Developer blog explaining the criteria for app removal. According to the company, a developer will see a notice saying their App Store is a candidate for possible removal if it hasn’t been updated within the last three years and fails to meet a minimal download threshold.

What’s a minimal download threshold? Per Apple, if an app saw no downloads at all or has been downloaded “extremely few times” during a rolling 12-month period, it’ll be considered for removal. So if your app saw between zero downloads and “extremely few” ones, Apple will consider it outdated. Unfortunately, Apple could be more transparent here and better define “extremely few.”

Is it a hundred downloads? A thousand? We don’t know and Apple’s vague criteria aren’t helpful—it could use download count as justification for any app removal. The thing is, the company cannot be trusted fully in that regard until it defines, in no ambiguous terms, what’s the download threshold that flags an app for removal.

Apple is also extending appeal time.

Longer appeal time

Apple has always allowed developers to appeal any app removal, and that’s not changing anytime soon. What is changing however is appeal time. Developers were originally given 30 days to submit updates to outdated apps before Apple removes them. The company is now extending the appeal time to 90 days.

Developers, including those who recently received a notice, will now be given more time to update their apps if needed—up to 90 days. Apps that are removed will continue to function as normal for users who have already downloaded the app on their device.

Since the program’s inception, Apple has removed almost 2.8 million apps.