How to provide updates after you remove an app from sale

At some point you may decide you want to shut down an app, but just because you want to stop offering it to new customers doesn’t mean you want to abandon your existing customers. Here are two such situations.

  • You want to stop supporting the app in a year or two. In the mean time, you still want to support existing customers without adding new ones, because new customers need additional years of support.
  • You’ve built a new web service that requires a new app. You want to give existing customers time to transition, but you want all new customers to use the new app.

There are many ways the App Store could support shutting down an app over time. Ideally, you would be able to remove the app listing from search and the purchase button from the product page. Ideally app updates would continue to work the same way. That option doesn’t exist, but there are three options to consider.

Three Options

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Option A.
Leave your app in the store and raise your price to $999. You can be sure nobody will want to download your app. Having such an expensive app can create mistrust and offering multiple similar apps can cause confusion.

Option B.
Put your app on the store and then remove it as soon as the product page becomes available. This only leaves a tiny time window where a new customer could download your app, but allows existing customers to indefinitely download your latest version from the “Purchased” apps list.

Option C.
This is the same as option B, but instead you leave the product page available for 24-72 hours. This is enough time for most devices with automatic updates enabled to automatically update and for many users to manually update. An app that doesn’t want new users is only going to do 1-2 updates a year so this will only leave the product page available for less than 1% of the year.

Option A. Raise the price to $999

I won’t cover how to raise the price, but this will almost certainly dissuade new customers from downloading your app. However, this option leaves your product page available so I prefer options B and C.

Options B and C.

Hide your product page by setting your app status to “Remove from sale”, but then temporarily make it available to allow existing customers to update. The process works as follows:

  • Remove the app from sale and leave it hidden until you decide you need to make an update.
  • Submit a new version while the app is still removed from sale.
  • Release the update so your existing customers can get it.
  • Again remove the app from sale

Read When should you remove your app from sale again? so that you can correctly decide whether you prefer Option B or C.

Remove the app from sale

To do this go to > My Apps > (select your app) > Pricing and Availability and select the radio button in front of “Remove from sale”, and then click Save.

The status of your latest version will change to “Developer Removed from Sale”. Then within 20 minutes your app will disappear from search results, and within one hour your app’s product page will be gone. Users will get an “App Not Available” alert when they follow a link to the app’s product page, and any pending automatic updates will be cancelled.

With your app removed from the App Store, you won’t get any more new customers for that app. Leave your app in this status until you have an update you need to provide to your existing customers.

Submit a new version

The review process for an app that’s “Removed from Sale” works the exact same as for any other app. The only difference is that the new version will automatically be “Removed from Sale” once it’s approved. You can make the update available to users whenever you’re ready.

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Release the update

Releasing the new version is the same process as removing it, but in reverse. Just change your app Availability from “Remove from sale” back to “All countries or regions selected” and click Save.

Next you need to wait at least 30 minutes, because if you immediately remove from sale users won’t be able to get that version. It won’t have made it to any devices and it won’t be available for download from the “Purchased” apps list.

Once you’ve waited 30 minutes the app will begin to show up in search results again. Meanwhile, some devices will have noticed the update and automatically downloaded it. Those devices will now be on your latest version.

Another important thing happens after 30 minutes. The new version of the app now becomes the “latest available version”. Existing customers will always be able to download this version from the “Purchased” apps list. Downloading an app from the “Purchased” apps list requires first deleting the app from your device and then going to the screens in the screenshot below. You must first delete the app because the App Store will not allow you to update an app that’s “Removed from Sale”.

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When should you remove your app from sale again?

The longer you wait the more devices will automatically update or manually update, so you may want to keep the app available for 24 hours or for a few days. The longer you wait the less users will have to go through the hard to discover process of downloading apps from the “Purchased” apps list. Keep an eye on your update stats and remove your app from sale once the updates drop off.

Neither automatic updates nor manual app update will work when your app is back in “Removed from Sale”. However removing from sale is the only way to take down your product page and stop getting new customers.

I prefer using option C with a 48 hour update window. In my experience, that will get about 70% of installs to the latest version. You might even get higher adoption if you can notify users that there’s a vital update they need to manually install.

Other people prefer option A because they want want to maximize existing user ease of updating or option C if they want to minimize the chance that someone sees the product page.

Please let me know which you decided to use or if you know of any additional solutions to this problem.