Apple removes copy-cat apps from the App Store, doesn't address larger issues

Apple removes copy-cat apps from the App Store, doesn't address larger issues

Apple has removed a number of copy-cat apps from the App Store, specifically plagiaristic titles such as Tiny Birds, Temple Jump and Numbers With Friends created replicated by developer Anton Sinelnikov. Apple has made similar moves against shady developers in the past, taking down 1,000 apps in 2008 after they noticed fake 5-star reviews in the App Store.

However, the problem is greater than just a few scam apps from a few shady developer. Most of us know that these titles copy from the real deal, specifically Tiny Wings, Temple Run and Words With Friends, but new users might have a hard time telling them apart, and get a nasty surprise after they've drop down money only to discover they've been conned into buying a fake app. That creates a bad experience and might make them wary of the App Store in the future.

For legitimate developers, they lose out on the income. It's difficult and expensive enough, especially for independent developers, to get a hit title on the App Store. When and if they finally do have a hit on their hands, they now have to worry about scammers trying to steal their sales, damage their brand, and turn off their customers. Worse yet, according to developer Kode80, scammers rely on the outrage that follows their copy-cat apps to actually gain attention and drive sales.

Should Apple be doing more to prevent copy-cat titles from hitting the App Store in the first place, and should they be making it easier to report when they do? Apple long ago appointed themselves as gate-keepers and curators, but when it comes to copyright issues, they've followed the common practice of waiting for a complaint and then leaving the developers involved to fight it out. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it lets bigger, more established brands bully competitors out of the App Store.

Likewise, Zynga, one of the biggest gaming companies on the planet, has been accused of copying NimbleBit's Tiny Tower with their new game, Dream Heights. Dream Heights doesn't present itself as a copy-cat in the App Store the way Sinelnikov's did, with similar naming and branding intended to cause confusion, but it does duplicate the look, feel, and gameplay of a popular independent game.

Where should the line be drawn, and should Apple be the ones drawing it?

Source: The Guardian, TechCrunch; image via @tapbot_paul

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Andrew Wray

Andrew Wray is a Salt Lake City, Utah based writer who focuses on news, how-tos, and jailbreak. Andrew also enjoys running, spending time with his daughter, and jamming out on his guitar. He works in a management position for Unisys Technical Services, a subsidiary of Unisys Corporation.

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Reader comments

Apple removes copy-cat apps from the App Store, doesn't address larger issues


This reminds me of the Stoneloops thing. Stoneloops was so much better than Zuma but it's gone. Not sure which came first but the better game was Stoneloops is the better choice but out of the App Store.

Apple could screen the Applications better. I also feel that they need to clean up the app store a little. I know of SO many Apps that are crap and not worth even .99. Personally I think if an App receives a rating of 2 stars or lower for a period of time it should be removed from the App Store and pushed to the developer to improve the App to improve the customer experience. Also they need to include a report button. If customers feel that an application is cheating them of money they should have the option report the App to Apple so that it's possible to be seen under review.

A month or so after I published Geom-e-Tree, a very poor knock off appeared in the store. It was free, but had advertising it. I wrote to the developer to say he must have missed the Note to Other Developers embedded in my app, that says we really don't want to see "copycat variants of our basic design". The developer, in china maybe, immediately took his app off sale, but after about a month it showed back up. The developer does not respond to my email, and I have no recourse with Apple
I would not expect Apple to catch something like this on their own, but they sh/could have a process in place. I can imagine it getting very complicated quickly however. And, and unless there are big sales, it's a losing proposition for everyone except the copy-cat... Unless apple warned, then ejected developers who aren't doing original work..

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