We recently reported that App Store Review rejected HEY Calendar, a new app from Basecamp, for the same reason that led to HEY Email being rejected from the App Store in 2020. This time, to get HEY Calendar approved by Apple, Basecamp has added an unexpected new feature to the app rather than changing how it works.
The dispute between Basecamp and Apple
To recap the whole story, Basecamp’s HEY Email was rejected by Apple in 2020 for not letting users subscribe to the service using the iOS app. Instead, users were asked to subscribe through the company’s website, so that Basecamp wouldn’t have to pay the 30% fee to Apple.
According to Apple, HEY Mail violated the App Store guidelines because it put the entire app under a paywall, since it didn’t have any free features. At the time, even Apple Fellow Phil Schiller suggested Basecamp add some basic free features or a trial period to get the app approved – and that’s exactly what the company did.
After much discussion, Basecamp released an update to HEY Mail with a free 14-day trial period, which ended up being approved by Apple. After the trial period is over, users can purchase a license through the HEY website.
HEY Calendar gets App Store approval
A lot of things have happened since then. Apple now allows “reader” apps to provide external links for customers to sign up and manage their accounts outside the App Store system. However, apps still can’t be paywalled if they don’t offer free basic features or in-app purchases.
But Basecamp decided to test the limits again by doing the same thing as before. The new HEY Calendar app was rejected by Apple for not offering any free features and prompting users to subscribe through HEY’s website. Instead of implementing a free trial period similar to HEY Email, the company did something a bit more provocative.
The app has been updated with a calendar of Apple events for those who don’t have a HEY subscription. That’s right. The free feature is essentially a preview of how HEY Calendar works, but showing past Apple special events. And to our surprise, Apple approved the app after the update, which is now available on the App Store.
What a relief! We’ve spent a whole year getting the HEY Calendar ready. Millions of dollars in investment. And, as sad as it sounds, it all hinges on Apple. About 85% of paying customers for HEY use Macs and iPhones, so if Apple denied us the ability to distribute our app, we’d be dead.
David Hansson, Basecamp co-founder
There are two ways of looking at this story. Basecamp clearly knows the App Store guidelines and how everything works. They could have designed the app in accordance with the guidelines from the beginning. On Apple’s side, they gave Basecamp exactly what the company wanted.
By rejecting another HEY app, the company not only attracts more bad publicity, but also adds fuel to the fire when it comes to antitrust investigations against the App Store. As John Gruber said, Apple should have let it go and approved the app, considering everything that has happened with HEY Email in the past.
“It’s a real bummer to feel like I’ve been ripped off by a much bigger company, seeing them pitch something I’ve worked hard on as a free feature in their app. There’s some irony there,” Stephen says on 512 Pixels.
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