Apple Called…

… Startup to Shutdown to Restarted!

A week ago I blogged about how Apple shutdown my digital detox app Mute ending my 4 year startup journey.

Yesterday Apple changed their minds and returned Mute to the App Store 🤟🤠

A week ago

A week ago I felt my startup dreams had ended. Apple had removed Mute from the App Store that morning and I’d heard that many other screen time tracking apps and parental control apps were on their notice period and soon to go.

It felt like Apple were systematically removing all 3rd party competition to their own new iOS 12 Screen Time and Parental Controls from the App Store.

I made a video and wrote a blog post. I needed closure and I needed to thank my friends, family and investors who have supported me through the last 4 years of my startup journey.

Amazing support from amazing humans

The way you feel about your startup has some similarities to the way you feel as a parent to a child. Your startup is your baby. The startup journey for most founders is an up and down rollercoaster - you struggle through the lows but you get rewarded and love love love the highs.

It’s the reason I’ve been going to the amazing The Happy Startup School’s Summercamp Startup Event for the last 3 years — it’s in September, you should go... To hang out for a weekend with 150 inspiring entrepreneurs with shared values of creating businesses that focus on purpose over profit.

The Happy Startup School folk are my tribe. So… on Monday night, after blogging my Startup to Shutdown post those guys were the first people I wanted to share my story with.

The response was amazing. So many wonderful people offering their help, encouraging me not to give up and just generally making me feel loved.

And the support continued to flood in from family and friends as news spread.

That human connection — the power of IRL (😜) friendship is a huge part of the reason I created Mute in the first place. To help people in a world of digital distraction to put down (and mute!) their phones, break those endless phone checking, social media scrolling habits and be present with their family and friends. Offline.

Oh yeah! Apple called…

So somehow — and I think it must have been down to one or more of those amazing humans I mentioned — my blog post and message reached some people at Apple.

And a couple days ago a very nice guy from Apple called. And we had a 30 minute conversation about Mute and about data privacy and he asked me a lot of questions about exactly how Mute handles users data privacy. I explained that I, like Apple, care deeply about my user’s privacy.

That’s one of the reasons Mute asks for the bare minimum of permissions to function. ‘Always on’ location access is the only way a 3rd party screen tracking app can work. So this is the ONLY required permission users need to grant to be able to use Mute.

Mute asks for the bare minimum of data in order to get up and running. That’s why 90% of users who download the app trust it and complete the on boarding process.

As a side — it really frustrates my that so many apps force you to share personal data like your email before you get to even try their app. Mute doesn't.

Back in business

30 minutes after our call and my follow-up email to Apple, Mute was switched back on and live again in the App Store.

Maybe it’s not a cull afterall

So I think I jumped the gun in my last post. I no longer think that Apple are culling the competition. I do think that they are taking an even firmer position on user privacy. But that’s definitely a good thing.

ScreenTime API

Unfortunately 3rd party screen time tracking apps have to run continuously in the background in order to accurately track when users lock and unlock their phones. I think I also speak for other screen time app developers when I say that we don’t want to have to do this. It means we have to work so hard to function correctly without killing the phone’s battery.

What we really want is for Apple to open up their new native Screen Time API so that 3rd party apps can access this data if permitted by users and build upon Apple’s good work. I would suggestion that a fair policy with these kind of apps would be for Apple to 1) open up the screen time api and then 2) to give developers of screen time tracking apps 1–2 month’s notice to update their apps to transition to the new apis and no longer run continuously as location based apps.

Following Apple’s advise I’ve submitted a bug report / feature request for the above and I’m hopeful that Apple will open up ScreenTime API to apps like Mute trying to help people keep phone addiction in check.

What Next?

Mute 2 - that’s what’s next!

As I eluded to in my last post I’ve been developing Mute 2 into much more of a habit changing app. I’ve been working on awesome habit-breaking features that compliment Apples built in tools. Features like the Daily Mute — see how long you can stay off your phone each evening compared to your friends. And challenges and awards like Nightime Ninja (staying off your phone all night) and Mindful Morning — breaking the habit of checking your phone as soon as you wake up.

Want to be the first to try Mute 2? Just add your email here and I’ll let you know as soon as it’s ready. Coming to your phone very very soon 😘