For app makers, Apple giveth widgets (and Apple taketh away)


PCal widget
PCalc has fallen victim to Apple's proverbial axe. Screenshot: Alex Heath/ Cult of Mac

When you live in Apple’s world as a third-party developer, you are required to play by Apple’s rules. And sometimes those rules are subject to sudden change.

James Thomson, the developer behind the scientific calculator app PCalc, was notified today by Apple that his iOS 8 widget must be removed. The reason? A new stipulation that iOS widgets cannot perform calculations.

The reasoning behind Apple’s decision may never be known by Thomson or anyone outside the company, and that’s just the point. The App Store is Apple’s kingdom to rule, for better or worse.

PCalc was one of the first apps to be updated for iOS 8, and Apple quickly featured it under the App Store’s marquee “Great apps for iOS 8” section. The app costs $10 and currently has an average rating of four and a half stars.

“I’m going to try to escalate the decision, but it sounds like it was made high up and won’t be changed,” tweeted Thomson after receiving a call from Apple. “I’ve basically got 2-3 weeks to remove it, barring a miracle.”

Apple told Thomson that a widget can be used to “enter a formula,” but that an actual app would have to be opened to perform a calculation.

It’s an odd, specific request from a company that has made strides with iOS 8 to let developers do more with their apps through extensions and widgets. There is no official calculator widget in iOS 8, and the closest thing to a competing stock feature would be Control Center’s shortcut to the Calculator app. OS X Yosemite does offer an Apple Calculator widget, but Thomson hasn’t said whether the new rule applies to OS X widgets too.

Update: Apple has reserved its stance on banning PCalc’s widget. Thomson is allowed to keep selling the app in the store without removing functionality.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.