Ousted developer furious over new Apple Watch Series 7 feature

Apple Watch Series7 Watchos Keyboard
Apple Watch Series7 Watchos Keyboard (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple unveiled a new Apple Watch Series 7 on Tuesday.
  • The new watch features a new QWERTY keyboard that uses QuickPath thanks to its larger screen.
  • A developer of a similar Apple Watch app that was booted from the store is absolutely furious.

A developer of a keyboard app for the Apple Watch is absolutely furious following the addition of a new feature to Apple Watch Series 7 that looks awfully familiar to his own work that was recently booted from the App Store.

Apple unveiled its latest Apple Watch at the iPhone 13 event Tuesday, noting a new keyboard feature enabled by the device's larger display:

The user interface is optimized to take advantage of the shape and size of the new display. Apple Watch Series 7 offers two additional larger font sizes, and a new QWERTY keyboard that can be tapped or swiped with QuickPath — allowing users to slide a finger to type — and utilizes on-device machine learning to anticipate the next word based on the context, making text entry easier and faster. With watchOS 8, larger menu titles and buttons in apps like Stopwatch, Activity, and Alarms also make the screen even simpler to interact with.

Users online quickly noted the similarity to FlickType:

Kosta Eleftheriou, developer of FlickType quickly noted "so now we know" regarding Apple's decision to remove his app from the Apple Watch App Store before stating "see you in court." Eleftheriou filed a lawsuit back in March against Apple over his treatment in the App Store, this was of course months before the revelation Apple planned to add its own native keyboard to the Apple Watch that looked an awful lot like his own product they said didn't comply with guidelines.

Apple's own App Store Review team told Eleftheriou his app breached Apple iOS Human Interface Guidelines stating "specifically, the app is a keyboard for Apple Watch." FlickType is currently still available on the App Store and was featured as one of the top App Store apps in 2020, however the developer announced in August it would discontinue the app due to issues with the App Store.

Addressing the issue, Apple noted to iMore that Eleftheriou's message shared above is from 2019, and stemmed from issues with the app at the time where Apple removed the app over a violation of its guidelines, however the app was restored when Apple learned of its accessibility features. Apple says it first banned keyboards on the Watch because its first iterations did not have large enough screens and weren't a good use of APIs, but that this has changed as the Watch's screen have grown in size. Apple further noted that there are other keyboard apps alongside FlickType that offer similar functionality on the App Store (including previously a scam clone app that earned its developer $300k a month, and that full size keyboards have been allowed and even encouraged since 2019. Apple also says that it has told Eleftheriou earlier this year that Apple is satisifed FlickType is a compliant app and that it would review a submission with the extension that benefited blind and visually impaired people.

Now Apple Watch has its own keyboard made by Apple, and a lawsuit on its hand. To add insult to injury, the sample text in the press release features the typed word "copy". Eleftheriou's FlickType is another pertinent example of Sherlocking, where large companies tend to absorb the ideas of smaller developers and companies into their native and hardware and software products, as evidenced in a recent Android Central story about Cix Liv and Facebook.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9