Update, August 1, 2020 (10:40 PM ET): Blue Mail ended up getting restored on the Google Play Store earlier today after 15 hours of it being unavailable to download. According to Google, its removal had nothing to do with retaliation against Blix, as that company’s founder suggested on Twitter.
Here is a statement that explains the situation in further detail from Dan Jackson, a Google spokesperson:
It’s completely false that we retaliated in any way against this developer. As part of our ongoing policy enforcement process, this app was flagged for similarities to the TypeApp mail app. As we always do when we find issues, we notified Blix and reached out to them to better understand the situation, and after a thorough review we have now reinstated the app.
This statement makes it very clear that the removal of Blue Mail had nothing to do with Blix’s involvement with the ongoing antitrust investigation against Google. Ben Volach, Blix’s founder, thanked Blue Mail’s supporters on Twitter while also calling for other developers who have faced similar problems to reach out and let him know about it.
Original article, July 31, 2020 (05:53 PM ET): Today, the popular email app Blue Mail was removed from the Google Play Store. A search on the store for the app as of publishing this article returned no results other than similar apps.
Blix, the development company behind Blue Mail, was quick to call out the removal as a retaliatory move by Google. Blix claims Google is fighting back because of Blix’s involvement with the ongoing antitrust investigations into Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple.
Google told The Washington Post that it was looking into the issue but did not give a direct comment on the removal of Blue Mail.
Blue Mail removal: Retaliation?
Ben Volach, the founder of Blix and co-creator of Blue Mail, posted the following tweet a few hours ago after he learned of the removal:
Google just kicked @BlueMail out of the store w/out notice. We’ve been there for 6+ yrs! If this isn’t retaliation due to our role in the congressional hearing, then what is? @davidcicilline Apple & Google must be regulated. 2 gatekeepers to rule them all @sundarpichai @tim_cook pic.twitter.com/s9TNCcdegF
— Ben Volach (@benvol) July 31, 2020
According to Volach, Blix only learned about the removal when users who were switching phones started asking why they couldn’t find the app on the Play Store. Volach says there was no notice from Google prior to the app’s removal, and therefore no way for Blix to fix whatever issue caused Google to make the decision to remove it.
Later, Blix said Google informed it that the removal was due to Blue Mail copying another app. However, it is unclear if Google gave Blix enough information to fix the situation or not. Since the app is currently unavailable, we’re going to assume that’s a no.
Blix has troubled history with app stores
While Blue Mail is incredibly popular (and one of the email apps we recommend), it has had its fair share of controversies. Over on the Mac App Store, the app had been removed by Apple after Apple released a product that Blix says was remarkably similar to Blue Mail. Blix sued Apple over this incident.
Related: Best email apps to manage your inbox
During the ongoing antitrust investigation into Apple, the company said it does not retaliate against or intimidate competitors. Blue Mail has since been restored to the Mac App Store.
Blix also previously accused Google of poaching its ideas when the latter company announced it would be integrating its chat app within Gmail in a similar form as Blue Mail.
Volach says Blix has been cooperating with authorities related to the ongoing antitrust investigations. It remains to be seen how long Blue Mail will be off the Play Store or if Google will give Blix a detailed account behind the reasoning for its removal.