Vybe Together, an app that helps users find and organize parties, has accused tech giant Apple of banning it from the App Store for political reasons and is appealing the decision.
It was banned from the App Store late last year after a New York Times reporter accused it of being used for “finding and promoting COVID-unsafe large, indoor house parties.”
At the time, Vybe Together disputed the claims and said the whole thing was “blown out of proportion by media. We DO NOT CONDONE LARGE GATHERINGS.”
In a statement on its appeal, Vybe Together suggested that the app was removed because it was “potentially harmful to Apple’s public image.”
Vybe Together also accused Apple of acting as a monopolist when removing the app:
“We think that Apple as a monopoly owes the people the right to choose for themselves; in Vybe’s case they made a decision for the Public, acting as the judge and the prosecutor without our ability to defend ourselves.”
As a result of Apple’s decision, the relatively small app Vybe Together, which had 25 App store ratings when it was removed, has essentially been cut off from reaching Apple’s 1 billion+ active iPhone users for almost six months.
While web apps are an alternative to the App Store, their features are restricted by Apple and the vast majority of iPhone users rely on the App Store for apps.
The removal of Vybe Together is one of many examples of Apple wielding its control of the App Store to demand a cut of the revenue apps generate, force them to remove key features, or ban them completely.
While the App Store is the main ecosystem Apple uses to squeeze other companies, creators, and developers, it has started to arbitrarily restrict access to other networks where it’s a dominant player.
One example of this is mobile payments – an area where Apple already has over half a billion estimated users and has the most popular mobile payments service in the US. The tech giant is now targeting individual merchants and forcing Shopify to disable their Apple Pay Gateway if what they’re selling falls to meet Apple’s criteria.