Google flags its iOS apps as “out of date” after two months of neglect

Enlarge / The present state of Google’s iOS app lineup.

Aurich Lawson

Google’s main iOS apps have been seeing severe neglect for the previous few months. On December 8, Apple’s App Retailer began requiring all apps to indicate privateness “nutrition labels” of their app retailer itemizing, the place builders self-report what information an app makes use of for monitoring and the way that information is linked to a person. Coincidentally, a number of Google’s apps, particularly the most well-liked ones, haven’t been up to date since December 8.

The scenario has gotten so dangerous that Google’s servers have been briefly flagging its personal iOS apps as “outdated.” As detailed by Techmeme editor Spencer Dailey, Gmail, Google Pictures, and Google Maps on iOS have been all caught exhibiting a server-side pop-up message to customers saying, “It’s best to replace this app. The model you are utilizing does not embrace the newest security measures to maintain you protected. Solely proceed for those who perceive the dangers.” Truly Google, you ought to replace this app. Due to Google’s sudden disinterest in iOS app updates, the messages have been exhibiting even when customers had the newest, two-month-old updates of those Google apps. The messages have since been eliminated by way of a server replace.

Presumably, this was an computerized discover that pops up when Google’s app updates hit a sure age and are supposed to catch individuals who have not been to the App Retailer shortly. Presumably, Google picked a timeframe (roughly two months) that it thought it will by no means go with out transport some form of app replace. Now, for some mysterious motive, that point interval has handed, and Google’s servers have been briefly accusing Google’s app builders of placing customers “in danger.”

The speculation that Google has halted iOS app updates because of the brand new privateness labeling has been kicking round for about a month now. Again in early January, Google had some believable deniability. The corporate’s annual vacation code freeze would have been simply thawing out, and with COVID and all of the work-from-home adjustments, it is comprehensible that perhaps productiveness was down. On January 5, TechCrunch relayed that “a Google spokesperson confirmed the corporate has a plan so as to add privateness labels throughout its app catalog” and that “the labels are anticipated to start rolling out as quickly as this week or subsequent week.” On January 12, this was reiterated in an official blog post.

It is a month later now, and whereas some Google apps since then have been up to date with app privateness labels, many of the main well-liked apps nonetheless haven’t been up to date. YouTube, which has its personal CEO and is generally run as a separate firm, is the most well-liked app with privateness labels, however the different heavy hitters like Gmail, Google Maps, Search, Chrome, Drive, Pictures, Hold, and Duo have all been frozen for the reason that privateness necessities launched.

How dangerous have Google’s iOS updates gotten?

Due to on-line app-version histories, we will dig by way of a very good bit of information on Google’s iOS app freeze this yr. The App Retailer retains an official model historical past for the previous yr, and will get us a comparative copy of final yr’s iOS updates. Since Google’s iOS and Android apps are all extraordinarily related, we’ll additionally evaluate to how Android updates have been rolling out over the identical time interval (through APKMirror’s model historical past), which can assist appropriate for any COVID-related work-from-home difficulties.

It is fairly clear Google’s iOS productiveness has flatlined within the final two months. Gmail was final up to date on iOS on December 1, however the Android model of Gmail has gotten 4 updates since then: December 10, January 19, February 2, and February 9. Over the identical time interval last year, the vacation code freeze for Gmail on iOS ended on January 13, with 4 updates arriving earlier than February 11, 2020. The identical story holds for Google Maps: the iOS model was frozen on December 1, whereas the Android model (not counting beta releases!) has had 9 updates between then and now.

So many Google apps are like this that we’ll do a giant desk. These are updates since December 8 (the enforcement date of Apple’s privateness labels) in keeping with the aforementioned sources. These numbers present iOS app updates from December 8, 2020 to February 11, 2021, iOS app updates from the identical interval a yr in the past, and Android updates from December 8, 2020 to February 11, 2021. We’re not counting Android beta releases, although that will double a few of these Android launch numbers.

App updates
since 12/8
(this yr)
(final yr)
(this yr)
Gmail 0 5 4
Google Maps 0 6 9
Google Search 0 5 27
Chrome (Steady) 0 2 6
Google Drive 0 9 8
Google Docs 0 5 9
Google Sheets 0 6 8
Google Pictures 0 9 16
Google Hold 0 4 8
Google Duo 0 5 6
Google House 0 3 3

Fairly a number of of those apps (Drive, Docs, Sheets, Hold, Duo) have been up to date on December 7, the final day to get in app updates earlier than the brand new privateness necessities, which isn’t a very good look.

We have requested Google if it has any touch upon the “outdated” incident and why iOS app updates are taking so lengthy. We’ll replace this text if the corporate responds.

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