David Heinemeier Hansson

January 8, 2024

We’ve resubmitted the HEY Calendar app to Apple

Apple waited until end of business on Friday to send us the formal rejection of the HEY Calendar app. It seems they love to play these little games to try to drown any controversy with the cover of a weekend. But we don’t roll over that easy, so the team worked through the weekend to prepare a new build to appease the App Store’s bullying bureaucrats, and I think you’re going to like what we came up with.

See Apple’s stated reason for rejecting the HEY Calendar app is once again that “it doesn’t do anything when you download it”. In other words, it features a login screen, and requires you to have an existing account with our HEY email service in order to use it. It’s the textbook definition of a free companion app, which Apple specifically exempts from having to use in-app payments. They even cite Email Services(!!) as an example in 3.1.3(f):

3.1.3(f) Free Stand-alone Apps: Free apps acting as a stand-alone companion to a paid web based tool (eg. VOIP, Cloud Storage, Email Services, Web Hosting) do not need to use in-app purchase, provided there is no purchasing inside the app, or calls to action for purchase outside of the app.

That’s the rule we got into the guidelines last time Apple backed down from their shakedown nonsense with the original HEY launch in 2020. This is the rule we were banking on them following with the HEY Calendar app.

It lives in the same category of exemptions that allow other paid services to forego using in-app payments in their apps. That list of exemptions is now very long, as they attempt to cling on to as many profitable app categories with their shakedowns for the 30% cut as possible, while buying off their strongest adversaries.

This is why streaming apps like Netflix have an exemption. It’s why Salesforce doesn’t need to comply. Even Google Calendar. And, although not even explicitly mentioned with a callout, banking apps. There are literally thousands of such apps that “don’t do anything” before you login with credentials you already have.

Anyway. What are we going to do? Apple’s monopoly power is immense. Something like 85% of all HEY customers use Apple devices, so not being present on the iPhone with the new HEY Calendar would be a death sentence for that part of the business.

So here’s what we did to comply with the “it has to do something” bullshit. We created a dedicated tribute to Apple’s History right into the app, which you can use if you don’t have an account with the HEY email service. It looks like this:

We were inspired by the very popular physical 2024 Apple History Calendar by Stephen Hackett, which has raised over $40,000 on Kickstarter for its production. We dug through Wikipedia and other sources to compile a rich account, full of detail, of Apple’s history.

So now the app “does something” when you download it. Despite the fact that this requirement exists nowhere in the Apple App Store Guidelines. Despite the fact that the store is chockfull of apps that also doesn’t “do anything” without a login.

Did we want to work through the weekend to add this? No. But we also don’t want to leave our customers with iPhones waiting for our awesome native HEY Calendar app. We’re in the final stretch of our early-bird rollout of the HEY Calendar, so hopefully Apple will just approve the app shortly, and all these folks can get on with using the HEY calendar to track their New Year’s resolutions!

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.