FlickType, maker of the accessible iPhone keyboard that has become popular among those with vision impairment, has confirmed it is discontinuing its app after years of obstacles and “abuse” from Apple’s App Store approval team.
The announcement comes after FlickType last week submitted an update to fix bugs related to iOS 15 and got “incorrectly” rejected by Apple. The team says Apple has ignored repeated requests for clarification and support.
FlickType was designed to make iPhone easier to operate for blind users — and it worked. A 2018 report from the American Foundation for the Blind found the keyboard greatly increased typing accuracy and speed, and was significantly easier to use than Apple’s for those with vision impairment.
Since then, FlickType has picked up swipe-to-type support and added an Apple Watch keyboard. But it has long had to content with Apple’s “terrible” third-party keyboard APIs and App Store review problems.
After its latest update was rejected, FlickType says it can “no longer endure” Apple’s “abuse,” so it is throwing in the towel.
FlickType ditches iPhone keyboard
“Apple has thrown us obstacle after obstacle for years while we try to provide an app to improve people’s lives,” read one of a series of tweets posted on Monday. “We can no longer endure their abuse.”
The thread explains that FlickType submitted a new update to Apple last week that fixes issues in iOS 15 and improves its app for VoiceOver users. “No new features, just improvements,” the team explained.
“But Apple rejected it. They incorrectly argued again that our keyboard extension doesn’t worth without ‘full access,’ something they rejected us for THREE years ago. Back then we successfully appealed and overturned their decision, and this hadn’t been a problem since. Until now.”
FlickType says it has attempted to contact Apple nine times since receiving the rejection, but it is yet to get a response. “At this point they seem to be ignoring our attempts to content them directly.”
A long history of rejections
Again, this isn’t the first time FlickType has run into approval issues with Apple. It claims it has forty pages’ worth of “repeated, unwarranted, and unreasonable rejections that serve to frustrate and delay rather then benefit end-users.” It describes the review process as emotionally draining.
“The broader relationship Apple has with keyboard developers is hostile, as my decade of relevant experience can confirm,” the thread continued. “And it’s not just my own assessment: the former head of keyboards at Apple has admitted to this hostility.”
Indeed, it seems as though third-party keyboard support is something Apple was forced to bring to iPhone and iPad to keep users happy, rather than something it actually wanted to implement for greater freedom and usability.
It’s just one of a growing number of complaints users and developers have with the App Store and the way in which Apple controls it. And, like others such as Epic Games, FlickType says it has already filed a lawsuit against it.
FlickType takes aim at App Store review
“We’ve already filed a lawsuit against Apple, in part for denying us access to out customers through the App Store for months,” the team confirmed. Its lawsuit also “exposed many scam apps that have cost users and our business millions of dollars, while Apple ignored our complaints.”
Scam apps have become an increasingly prominent problem for the App Store in recent years. Despite Apple’s tight restrictions on developers, which often mean that genuine titles like FlickType get rejected, others that are seemingly designed as quick cash grabs continue to get Apple’s approval.
Just a few weeks ago, App Store users in Australia complained about Apple’s decision to feature a bunch of virtual slime apps aimed at children — some of which featured hefty subscription fees of as much as $676 a year — on the App Store’s Today page.
Not quite the end of FlickType?
FlickType said it had planned to keep its keyboard alive for those who really needed it through a TestFlight beta, but Apple put a stop to that as well. So, unless users disable automatic updates to prevent the existing version of FlickType from being replaced, that’s the end of its keyboard extension.
As a result, FlickType will ask Apple to stop featuring its keyboard in the App Store’s accessibility category. “While we are grateful to the App Store editors for previously recognizing our app, we feel it will no longer be appropriate for it to be highlighted for its accessibility benefits,” the team said.
However, FlickType isn’t completely dead. It will live on as a standalone typing app, with a share button that lets you export your text elsewhere. But it certainly won’t be as seamless as it once was.
“We hope to thank everyone who has supported us over the years, and hope to one day return as a ‘real’ keyboard app on your device — hopefully outside of the App Store,” FlickType added, in a nod to ongoing efforts to create an independent app distribution platform for iPhone and iPad.
FlickType isn’t able to offer refunds to those who have already purchased its keyboard, but you can request one from Apple.