AppGratis: Apple approved our iPad app a week before removing iPhone app

Apple(s aapl) may have removed AppGratis, an app discovery app, from its iOS App Store, but the appmaker’s CEO has a few things to say about it. In a post published to the company’s blog on Tuesday, AppGratis CEO Simon Dawlat denied using prohibited tactics to game the App Store, but he also pointed out one of the problems with Apple’s enormous App Store: a disconnect in the app review process.

Last weekend Apple removed AppGratis from the App Store for violating two iOS developer guidelines: 2.25 and 5.6, which prohibit, respectively, apps that exist merely to promote or market third-party apps, and apps that use push notifications for marketing or promotional purposes.

Dawlat’s dismay at the removal stems from the fact that Apple had approved the iPad version of the app for release in the App Store just a week before the iPhone version was officially removed. In his blog post he includes a screenshot of the approval he received from Apple’s app reviewers. As he put it, “This came to us as a very strong validation of the amazing value created by our product for the whole App Store ecosystem, something we were intimately convinced of since the very beginning, and eventually had the opportunity to discuss with Apple, with a positive outcome.”

Dawlat violated rules. That much is clear. And it’s also true that Apple allowed AppGratis and other apps like it in the store for a long while before doing anything about it. What this situation also highlights is an ongoing issue for the App Store review team: inconsistent decisions.

It happened quite frequently when the App Store first opened. It’s not as common now, but it still happens with some high profile apps: see the hubbub over the approval of Twitter’s Vine app earlier this year despite graphic content. It appears that inconsistent enforcement of those rules — and individual app reviewers’ interpretation of them — is what caused AppGratis to get approved for an iPad app by two Apple app reviewers, only to have its iPhone app yanked back just days later in a decision by a different reviewer.

For his part, Dawlat is putting on a brave face and saying his company “is far from finished.”

The same could be said of Apple’s 800,000 strong App Store and its review team: there’s a lot more that needs to be done to ensure consistent rule enforcement to create the best possible experience for both app users and their developers.