The App That Never Was

While using one of my favorite iOS Shortcuts the other day, it occurred to me how much things have changed in six years.

I say six years ago specifically because it was in 2014 that I made an iOS app called Upshot.

Sadly, Upshot never saw the light of day because I couldn't get it past App Review for very dumb reasons. Lucky for you though, after I show the ridiculously simple Shortcut that I now use instead, this gives me the opportunity to tell you my very favorite App Store rejection story.

I subscribe to the whole GTD philosophy - especially the notion of ubiquitous capture. (Although, as usual, Merlin has a really good anti-take on the topic that is worth considering.) It keeps me sane knowing I have a system to record the things I shouldn’t forget when they occur to me.

For a long time, many of the notes, ideas, and reminders I captured were quick cellphone snapshots. Of course, that means my camera roll quickly cluttered up with photos that were only relevant to me for a day or two or maybe even just an hour after I snapped them.

There are a thousand ways (and apps) to solve this problem. For me, my solution has long been a top-level folder in my Dropbox named _Inbox. (The _ keeps it sorted at the top of the directory listing.) It’s where all my dumb, non-text notes go right away so I don’t have to think about where to put them - before sorting through that folder a few times a week.

I built Upshot for myself to make that process even faster. Because, this was 2013 - 2014, before there were iOS share / action extensions to make moving data between apps easy. Before there was Files.app and file provider apps.

The app was simple. Five giant buttons.

  • Photo
  • Video
  • Camera Roll
  • Audio
  • Text

Tap one, capture what you need, and it’s immediately put in your preferred Dropbox folder. It could also (and optionally) automatically generate a Dropbox share link on your clipboard.

And because this was back in the day, it also had full support for x-callback-url integration. Which means it could tie into other wonderful apps like Drafts.

I loved my little app and hoped other people might, too. Sadly, I could never appease the App Review gods. And because this was back during the Dark Ages where every app submission took an entire week or more to review, after multiple rejections, Apple successfully defeated my desire to share the app with others, so I stopped trying and just used it myself until iOS share extensions and Shortcuts arrived.

But more on that later. First, here’s my incredibly simple replacement Shortcut that I’ve had on my home screen for a while now.

Tap the icon, snap a photo, and choose between

  • Save to Dropbox
  • Share with iOS system share sheet
  • Copy to Clipboard
  • Text to a Friend

It’s super simple, fast, and lets me quickly send a photo wherever I need it without cluttering up my camera roll.

You can install the shortcut from this link. And here are the steps for posterity.

Back to Upshot’s App Store rejection. It was rejected for two reasons. The first one I fixed, the second one I gave up on.

I’ve been playing this game for a while, so in hindsight I should’ve know better, but Upshot was reject at first because I linked to an “external mechanism for purchases or subscriptions”.

Aha! Silly me, my mistake. I bet the app reviewer visited the FAQ part of the app which linked to the Help page on my website. And then my website, of course, links to, well, the rest of my website which allows people to purchase the Mac app I sell direct to customers because it isn’t allowed in the Mac App Store. That has to be it, right? I mean, it happened two years earlier.

Nope.

The whole purpose of Upshot is to store your photo notes in Dropbox, right? Well, my mistake was that I had “dropbox.com” or something listed in the App Store meta description. And since none of the text you put into the description is actually tappable, I can understand why Apple was worried someone might see a word ending in dot com and think to type that string into their web browser and Apple might be denied a finder’s fee for that customer giving money to another entity they have nothing to do with.

Upshot Dropbox Rejection

Fair enough. I removed it.

But, the rejection I couldn’t get past because I literally did not have the technical knowledge or google-fu to solve myself, was the audio note recording feature of Upshot.

When you tapped the “Audio” button in Upshot to record your voice, the app made a “beep” to signify that recording had begun.

Except...

…when the phone was in silent mode or the volume turned all the way down.

In that instance, you couldn’t hear the recording beep. And App Review took exception to that.

Upshot Beeping Rejection

(The second highlighted paragraph was in response to me pointing out that other apps, including the iOS voice recorder app, didn’t make a beep when the phone was silenced.)

Try as I might, I couldn’t make my app make a noise when the phone was silenced. Audio programming is something I know basically nothing about. And even dropping down into (for me) obscure APIs dealing with HAL Audio Units, I wasn’t smart enough to make it work.

So, I gave up.

On the plus side, by keeping my dumb little app out of the App Store and preventing someone from surreptitiously recording another person, App Review was able to keep the App Store a safe and trusted marketplace for customers who have no choice but to shop there.


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