Now, Apple appears defiant and poised to remove it.
The saga started all in good fun, when developer Adam Howell thought it would be cool to make an app that lets people prank their friends by taking advantage of Apple's new iMessage stickers feature. His US$ 0.99 Phoneys app allows people to drag a pre-written blue bubble over their message.
On the sender's device, it looks wrong, because a blue bubble shows up on the left-hand side of the screen. But on the recipient's device, the blue bubble shows up on the correct side, making it appear to be a message they sent.
Howell came up with 28 sarcastic messages, like "You're so smart" and "How do you always look so amazing?" and submitted his app for Apple's approval last 21 September. He got an email less than 48 hours later, telling him that his app was approved.
"My wife was surprised, she was sure it'd never get approved," he wrote in a Medium post. "I decided I'd officially release Phoneys after the weekend, and spent more late nights working on the landing page, app store screenshots, icons, and marketing copy."
Howell's work paid off. Thanks in part to recognition from the Internet technorati, including a TechCrunch story and mentions from several influential Twitter users, Phoneys became the top paid app on the iMessage store a few days ago.
But Apple was not pleased. Howell received a call from a company representative, who said that Apple's lawyers weren't happy that Phoneys had gotten through the App Store approval process. The representative requested that Howell make several changes, but didn't say that Phoneys would be yanked.
"The stickers couldn't be blue or green, they couldn't use San Francisco [the official iOS font] as the typeface, and the app could no longer be marketed as a 'prank' app, because Apple doesn't approve prank apps," Howell wrote. As of last 30 September, when he wrote the Medium post, he still wasn't sure if he was going to comply.
"On the one hand, if I update the stickers over the next week like Apple has so generously allowed me to do, I will be 'breaking' Phoneys for everyone who has already bought it," he wrote. "On the other, if I don't make the updates, Phoneys will get pulled from the store next week, letting everyone who has already bought the stickers use them until they someday delete them, but upsetting all those who bought Phoneys thinking I'd update it with more stickers in the future."