The app, which fills a similar niche on iOS to services such as IFTTT on the web and Apple’s own Automator on desktop, was highly praised by its users, and by Apple itself, which commended its developers with a design award in 2015.
The acquisition is unusual, by Apple’s standards, since the app will continue to be available on the App Store. Now though it will be free to download for all users. Equally unusual is the fact that Apple confirmed the acquisition, with Workflow’s developer Ari Weinstein saying in a statement that he was “thrilled to be joining Apple”.
Apple praised the accessibility features of Workflow, “in particular an outstanding implementation for VoiceOver with clearly labeled items, thoughtful hints and drag/drop announcements, making the app usable and quickly accessible to those who are blind or low-vision”.
Workflow has long been recommended as an important app for those who need to do serious work using their phone. It lets users chain together a series of actions, such as creating a short text report, saving a copy in Dropbox, and texting it to a set of numbers, then carry them out with the tap of a button.
Workflow’s acquisition is a fairly crisp example of the kinds of app successes that have become a bit more muddied in this age of services. A small, clever team (that were one-time WWDC student scholarship recipients) built a tool so useful on iOS that Apple itself essentially copped that they couldn’t do it better and bought it. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.