Launcher for iPhone returns after six months

In September 2014, developer Greg Gardner received a call from Apple about his app, Launcher. The app featured Today widgets that launched a variety of third-party apps, and that made Cupertino nervous. "The short story is," Greg told me, "[Apple] told me to remove the widget or they'd take down the app. They also told me that they are usually restrictive when it comes to new functionality and that they sometime loosen the restrictions over time." Apparently that time has come, as Launcher returned to the App Store this week after a six-month absence.

But it wasn't an easy process.

Greg spent the last six months working on "various takes" on Launcher. In January, he released Music Launcher, which we reviewed here. Music Launcher offers one-tap access to your favorite songs without unlocking your phone, and it's pretty nice. "At the time it seemed that Music Launcher was accepted because it doesn't launch any apps," Greg told me. "It just calls the MediaPlayer API to enqueue and play music."

In the meantime, Greg saw an app on the store that let a user "speed dial" contacts from Notification Center. Encouraged, he whipped up a version of Launcher that simply did that. "I submitted a new version of Launcher that I called Contact Launcher which could only set up launchers to call, message, email or FaceTime someone. It was initially rejected, but then went through a lengthy appeal process where they eventually overturned the rejection and said that I could release it."

At this point, Greg attempted to identify the variable that got Contact Launcher approved and kept Launcher at bay. "After some time," Greg said, "I was informed that they were going to re-review the original Launcher app. They then reviewed it and told me that they were 'now OK with the functionality' and that if I resubmitted a new version, the concept would not be rejected. So I polished off my previous version 1.1, added in a bit of new functionality (ability to make the icons smaller and hide the labels for a more compact widget), ran it by my beta testers who gave some great feedback, and finally submitted it to Apple where it was reviewed and accepted."

I'm sure this was a frustrating experience for Greg, but it's also a great story of persistence, patience and analysis. Today, Launcher works very well and lets you, just as I've described, open apps right from Notification Center's Today view. Check it out in the App Store now. Finally, big thanks to Greg for sharing his story with Apple World Today.