Google’s own iOS apps caught displaying ‘out of date, must update’ notifications after being neglected for two months

Updating Google iOS apps on Apple iPhone
Google iOS apps showed ‘out of date, must update’ notifications, but there are no updates? Pic credit: Santeri Viinamäki/Wikimedia Commons

Google apps for the Apple iOS mobile operating system started to show “out of date” warnings. The search giant has quietly removed the automated reminders but is yet to send updates to a few of its popular iOS apps.

Despite claiming otherwise, Google appears to have halted updates for several of its iOS apps. The freeze apparently began after Apple’s stringent privacy-focused requirements.

Google flags its own iOS apps as “out of date”, later removes the notification from server-end:

In a rather embarrassing turn of events, Google’s servers were briefly flagging the company’s own iOS apps as “out of date.” The notifications briefly started appearing on popular Google apps such as Gmail, Google Photos, Google Maps, and others.

Google has quickly acted on the notifications, but not in the way Apple iPhone users expected. Instead of sending out updates to the apps showing the “reminder to update” notifications, Google quickly and quietly suppressed the reminder mechanism.

The aforementioned Google apps for iOS were caught showing a server-side pop-up message to users. The automated message read: “You should update this app. The version you’re using doesn’t include the latest security features to keep you protected. Only continue if you understand the risks.”

Google iOS App Updates Timeline
Pic credit: arsTechnica

Needless to add, the notification and its deployment appear completely automated, and incidentally, entirely from Google’s end. In other words, it wasn’t Apple Inc. that was reminding iPhone users to update Google apps.

It is concerning to note that Google apps for iOS that displayed the notifications actually did not have any updates to install. The notifications popped-up because Google did not send updates for about two months.

iOS-running iPhones displayed the notifications presumably owing to Google’s internal policies. The search giant clearly set rules to send out notifications reminding users to update apps after they hit a certain time-limit.

Google may have set a two-month limit. The company hasn’t been so tardy with updates in the past. Moreover, the same apps that showed the “out of date” notifications, have received updates on Android smartphones in the same time period.

Did Google intentionally stagnate its iOS apps?

There are growing concerns about Google’s iOS apps. Social media was abuzz with conspiracy theories about the company intentionally dragging its feet.

At the heart of the controversy is Apple’s revised policy about apps for iOS. The iPhone maker started mandating developers to offer Privacy Labels with their apps.

Considered to be the “Nutrition Labels” for apps, these informational snippets reveal what types of data, apps can potentially harvest during their usage. Coincidentally, several of Google’s apps haven’t seen an update after Apple’s policy went into effect.

Google has officially denied any wrongdoing. Moreover, the company had some plausible deniability because of its annual “holiday code freeze”. Combined with the ongoing pandemic and remote working employees, the updates could have been delayed.

Google has officially confirmed that it plans to oblige with Apple’s App Privacy labels. The company has sent out updates to a few apps that now contain the App Privacy labels.

However, popular Google apps such as Gmail, Google Maps, Search, Chrome, Drive, Photos, Keep, and Duo, haven’t received updates since the privacy requirements launched. Now, these apps briefly showed the “out of date, must update” notifications before reportedly being tagged as a “bug”.

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