Knitrino is a new knitting app. The founders recount their struggles getting the app approved by Apple.
Photo by Mandy Lundy.
It felt like we were ruined. Knitrino was our full-time business, created based on two years of input from hundreds of knitters. As sisters, we left our stable careers, invested our own life savings, persevered through the pandemic and major life events, and finally had a product to offer the thousands of excited knitters on our waitlist.
It was October of 2020 when Apple slammed the door on Knitrino, eliminating our ability to reach 70% of our customers. While the Google Play Store had approved Knitrino just hours after submission, Apple waited days before even taking a first look while we anxiously waited.
Apple rejected us. It was not for the reason they often publicly cite, security, but simply greed. Knitrino was designed to offer both patterns and yarns to knit them with, an industry-established business model, yet Apple knew if we sold physical goods they would lose their hefty fees. Apple was trying to force us to use their In-App Payment system to collect 30% of our small business’s potential sales to add to their billions. Yet this was inconsistent with their own policies which stated if we sold physical goods we could not use their IAP (and they could not extract these fees).
We were stunned and at the bottom of our bank account, with no recourse. Was it possible to have an exciting idea, customers who want what you’re building, and one giant company could arbitrarily say no?
Our Unravel Apple sticker – we were concerned about retaliation, so we made a sticker in case we need to raise some funds for legal fees!
The appeal process
It was only after weeks of persistence and constant written appeals paired with chance, that we finally spoke with an actual human on the cloak-and-dagger Review Board. We explained, again, that we were selling yarn kits in our store, which were physical goods, and that we were required by Apple’s policy to use an alternative payment system. After listening to us for a few minutes, he said, “When I called I thought the rejection would stand, that’s what happens 99% of the time in these cases.” But finally, Knitrino was approved, and can now be found in the Apple App Store for iPhones (and Google Play for Androids).
Why was our case the kind that gets rejected 99% of the time? Apple uses its monopoly power to extract an exorbitant fee that in a competitive market no one would pay. If Apple rejects an app, there’s no way for an iPhone customer who wants it to get it. Apple is artificially restricting the trade between the customer and the business. It’s an incredible amount of power.
Choosing to speak out
We are speaking out because we think it is the right thing to do, and because we believe, as the article “What the Microsoft Antitrust Case Taught Us” states, “keeping markets open can require a trustbuster’s courage to take decisive action even against a very popular monopolist.”
We’re taking a number of major actions for change. First, we put a target on our backs and joined the Amicus (“Friend of the Court”) Briefs written in support of Epic Games in their legal wranglings with Apple. We were one of only 4 companies to do so, and at great risk, because we were the only small business with extremely limited resources. We were also one of only 20 companies to add our name to the letter to the Senate “20 Tech CEOs Urge Senate Judiciary Committee to Pass Open App Markets Act”. Our vision is an open marketplace for apps where developers are treated fairly and customers have more choices.
It’s frightening to speak out against a company that has so much power and to be honest, it’s a little frightening to speak out to knitters because collectively we are an opinionated bunch! Our indie production was crafted with intention for knitters who want to use knitting patterns on their phones. We know not every knitter wants this. However, we believe everyone should have the ability to decide for themselves whether Knitrino is something they’d like to try or not. Apple should not be the one to decide.
We are a young company with a long roadmap full of exciting features ahead, and we are grateful for the overwhelming support we’ve received from our community to keep us going through a very difficult time. You can find out more details about our difficulties with Apple here and more about our values here.
Alison Yates and Andrea Cull
Alison Yates is Knitrino’s CEO. Andrea Cull is the company’s Chief Knitting Officer.