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Apr 12, 2001
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Apps that copy concepts and features from other apps are nothing new in the ‌App Store‌, but scammy like-for-like clones of genuine apps remain a perennial problem that Apple still hasn't resolved, as indie developer Kevin Archer recently discovered.

iOS-App-Store-General-Feature-Dock.jpg

Archer is responsible for 2Stable's Authenticator App, a feature-rich app that stores and generates secure two-factor authentication tokens for online accounts. Last week, Archer found another app in the App Store going by the same name that looks suspiciously similar: "Authenticator - App" by Russian company Byte Service.

Archer claims that the copycat app has not only lifted artwork and text from his app word-for-word, but it has also left in references to genuine features of his app that the clone app doesn't actually include, such as Apple Watch support.

In addition, counter to Apple's developer guidelines, the cloned app asks users for an App Store review during the onboarding stage. It also requires a $3.99 weekly subscription, which would amount to over $200 annually if a user forgot to cancel.

Archer later found another instance of the app in the App Store, just with a different icon. Archer says the app was submitted via a different developer account, but it also contains the same cloned elements originating from his own genuine app.


Reacting to his findings on Twitter, Archer wrote: "I really don't understand how these apps pass the App Store review with features that don't work, with a copied design, forcing users to review their app before even seeing it, and of course with a weekly subscription."

Archer went on to say that indie developers regularly get their apps "rejected for silly things," while others "spam [the] App Store with imitations and weekly subscriptions."

The problem of scam iOS apps has dogged Apple's ‌App Store‌ for some years now. Back in 2012, Apple's Phil Schiller was absolutely furious when a fake app made it to the top of the ‌App Store‌ rankings, according to documents shared in the Epic v. Apple trial.

Recently there have been concerted efforts by some developers to highlight that the problem remains as big as ever in at least some app categories. Just last year, Apple was hit with a lawsuit from developer Kosta Eleftheriou over the problem of scam and copycat apps on the App Store. Apple is facing a similar lawsuit with the makers behind the hit-game PUBG Mobile.

In the last few months, the issue of App Store scam apps has become a lightning rod for Apple, with some estimates suggesting scam apps on the platform have made millions in revenue. Most recently, the mainstream game Wordle became the latest victim of the App Store's problem. Wordle clones sprang up across the App Store as the game spread in popularity, and some copycat apps even offered in-app subscriptions, despite the fact that the original game is entirely free to play.

Apple recently restored the "Report a Problem" option on the App Store for developers to flag issues and combat scams. When selected, the option directs users to a website with a drop-down menu to report ‌App Store‌ violations, including a specific option to "Report a scam or fraud." However, developers generally remain frustrated that there's no way to get in touch directly with the App Store team to inform them of scammy apps that deceptively feed off their own inventions for financial gain. To improve the situation, Archer suggests Apple could make a special "contact us" form only for developers so they can can report such apps.

Update 2/22: Since this article was published, Apple has removed the copycat apps from the App Store.

(Thanks, Craig!)

Article Link: Indie Developer Dogged By Scammy Clone Apps Again Highlights the Holes in Apple's App Store Review Process
 
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easy4lif

macrumors 6502
Mar 31, 2005
475
900
Southbay CA
This is an Embarrassment. Apple should absolutely be ashamed of themselves. Tim Cook should take a page from Steve Jobs when he shamed everyone on the MobileMe during a town hall and fired the person in charge.

“In Fortune's story, Lashinsky says Steve Jobs summoned the entire MobileMe team for a meeting at the company's on-campus Town Hall, accusing everyone of "tarnishing Apple's reputation." He told the members of the team they "should hate each other for having let each other down", and went on to name new executives on the spot to run the MobileMe team. A few excerpts from the article.”
 

temende

macrumors member
Oct 28, 2021
61
324
Godspeed to all the indie developers who are still on the App Store. There are so many other, more lucrative options today for developers but I would also be sad if there weren't any 3rd party iOS apps.
 
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JPack

macrumors G3
Mar 27, 2017
9,145
15,760
This is one of the consequences of the App Store being a core growth area for Apple. There are clearly internal targets for Services growth.

Given Apple takes a 30% cut of revenue, you can bet there is pressure to approve apps that bring in money. Apple collects about $25 billion per year.
 

txscott

macrumors member
Oct 17, 2012
54
72
What I don't understand is why someone would buy an authenticator app from an independent developer in the first place.

99% of everything on the app store is worthless, from pay to play games, to subscription email clients or calendar apps, sleazy dating apps and, well, just about everything else. It is a vast wasteland of worthlessness.
 

Populus

macrumors 68030
Aug 24, 2012
2,679
3,295
Valencia, Spain.
I wanted to add that the search inside the App Store is a real mess. One example is the great voice recording app “Just Press Record”. If you search it by “Record”, you get a lot of recording apps but there’s no trace of this one. Same for a more recent app, “Play: Save Videos Watch Later”. If your search for just “Play” you cannot find it.

There’s a lot of room for improvement on the App Store as a store for apps.
 

MauiPa

macrumors 68030
Apr 18, 2018
2,958
4,323
If you’re running an App Store and only making 90 billion per year, you can’t expect to find every blatant copycat app like this
Being funny aside, does the App Store really have any legal authority to enforce or determine infringement? I’m betting it doesn’t, even in copyright and trademark disputes it is up to the infringed party to bring action.
 

MauiPa

macrumors 68030
Apr 18, 2018
2,958
4,323
As usual, lots of complaining and joking, but no mention of solutions. 1) the App Store does not have legal authority to determine infringement, 2) not all ideas can be trademarked, copyrighted and patented, but even so that is an area for the courts to determine

So what oh great and knowledgeable forum is the solution. Would side loading make it better or worse? At least once a developer gets a judgement, the offenders can be taken down by an app store
 

tamara6

macrumors regular
Apr 28, 2004
222
135
Apple's argument for why they should run the only app store on ios (and not allow side loading) is because they will protect us from things like this. Every app is supposed to be checked to make sure it does what it is supposed to do, isn't harmful, etc. Instances like this make it hard for Apple to really make that case. Clearly they are not checking the apps like they should be. So why shouldn't congress or the EU demand that Apple allow third party app stores or private developers to sell their apps?
 

beltzak

macrumors member
Aug 18, 2006
40
11
Being funny aside, does the App Store really have any legal authority to enforce or determine infringement? I’m betting it doesn’t, even in copyright and trademark disputes it is up to the infringed party to bring action.
Wait ... are you saying that Apple owns the App Store and they don't allow apps like Xbox Game Pass or any app that has the "courage" to add some boobs or penis and they must allow some Clone Scam Apps that rips your wallet off because they need money to put food on the table? You must be joking ;P
 

MauiPa

macrumors 68030
Apr 18, 2018
2,958
4,323
Wait ... are you saying that Apple owns the App Store and they don't allow apps like Xbox Game Pass or any app that has the "courage" to add some boobs or penis and they must allow some Clone Scam Apps that rips your wallet off because they need money to put food on the table? You must be joking ;P
Wait......are you saying that a private company has legal authority to make determinations of infringement? NOOOOOO!
 

MauiPa

macrumors 68030
Apr 18, 2018
2,958
4,323
Apple's argument for why they should run the only app store on ios (and not allow side loading) is because they will protect us from things like this. Every app is supposed to be checked to make sure it does what it is supposed to do, isn't harmful, etc. Instances like this make it hard for Apple to really make that case. Clearly they are not checking the apps like they should be. So why shouldn't congress or the EU demand that Apple allow third party app stores or private developers to sell their apps?
Or, why shouldn't congress or the EU grant App Store curators enough power to make enforcements that you allege they already have?
 
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Robert.Walter

macrumors 68020
Jul 10, 2012
2,395
3,057
Apple needs to get a handle on this issue SOON!

Nothing speaks stronger againstApples defense of the walled garden than the porosity of its walls.

Even if they are less porous than Google’s, the opponents to the idea will claim they hardly provide protection at all.
 
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