How Apple Uses Its App Store To Copy The Best Ideas

from WaPo

Developers have come to accept that, without warning, Apple can make their work obsolete by announcing a new app or feature that essentially copies their ideas. Some apps have simply buckled under the pressure.

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14 Responses to How Apple Uses Its App Store To Copy The Best Ideas

  1. Wyatt Slone September 10, 2019 at 6:33 pm #

    Apple has been known as the pinnacle of technology since the Iphone debuted in 2007. Since then Apple has taken over the mainstream media elevating connections between people, promoting health and adding safety features to keep consumers comfortable. Reed Albergotti, Washington Post’s electronics reporter, dives into the dirty workings of Apple and how they stay as one of the top marketing strategists in America. In the article, it is stated that Apple is stealing the intellectual property of many app developers that have had successful results inside the App Store. Recently, the menstruation tracker app “Clue” has become stressed to find out Apple’s health app is adding new features to help women consumers track their cycles.
    Whether Apple is intentionally taking the ideas of popular apps from inside the App Store, or they just have a team of smart developers; it has become a known fact that once a published app goes live inside the App Store, Apple analysts have access to all their data. The company DoApp who worked with Apple in the early years of the Iphone to create useful apps, who also had to sell out in 2016 due to falling consumerism, had the brilliant technology to have an app able to adapt the Iphone camera’s flash into a flashlight. Profits at its highest brought DoApp 30,000 dollars a month, but soon Apple released a new feature with one of their IOS updates, the flashlight. While new consumers buying new phones with the new updates. DoApp’s profits plummeted dramatically, and their company went under.
    As app developers create new useful apps that ease day to day struggles in life, many are wary whether to sell their product to Apple. Many developers know the risk that selling their product to the App Store could end up with their intellectual property being cloned and written off as Apple’s. However, the initial pay off of profits if their app becomes successful leads developers to taking the risk and pushing to create more diverse apps.
    As more issues arise, I surmise that laws will need to be put into place to bar Apple (and other large technology companies) from monopolizing the market, as well as to pay app developers for their ideas and give credit where credit is due. But while I am advocating for helping the underdog, I do think this is a dog eat dog world and that developers know what they are getting themselves into when venturing into Silicon Valley. Heavy intellectual property laws do not exist to protect designers, as far as I know, so perhaps in the coming years our generation of law students can develop adequate methods to stop larger companies from finding loopholes in contracts.

  2. Alexander Nowik September 13, 2019 at 1:41 pm #

    One issue I have with this article, is that it does not account for the fact that many of the apps Apple “copied” are not ingenious themselves. For example, the flashlight not being a core part of the iPhone until 2013, meant app developers could market their flashlight to Apple users. However, the flashlight is not a groundbreaking invention, nor is the idea to put it on a phone. To me this being an example used in the article is a reach (at best) to accuse Apple.
    That being said I think the more interesting side of this is Apple using its app store to discover data. Whether or not Apple is “copying” apps or not, they are still well aware of trends on their app store, and what apps they should include in their next version of iOS. This gives them a competitive edge over any app developer. I do think it’s interesting that members of congress want to pursue this under anti-trust laws. While I think it might be too much to say ban them from making apps and running an app store (as Senator Warren seems suggests), perhaps there is a way to make a [more] level playing field for app developers. App developers are forced to put their apps on the Apple store after all (it is 71% of the market), and that same store is one that Apple can use to collect (at the very least) data. It would be like Coca-Cola owning all the soda production factories, and only letting companies produce there if the company gave them access to their recipes.

  3. Nicholas Luciano September 13, 2019 at 4:41 pm #

    The article “How Apple uses its App Store to copy the best ideas,” was very insightful to read. It was also very interesting because we have always thought Apple has taken ideas. The consumers that have been with Apple from the very beginning remember not having functionality of the “flashlight” on their iPhone 4 without getting a free app. The Health and Activity apps are brand new pre-installed apps that were introduced just a few years ago. Apple has notoriously taken ideas from their own app stores and put them into their own apps. They go to the top of their charts and Apple ultimately beats them out with functionality. These apps are then deleted because why does the consumer need two of the same apps?

    Apple has gotten a taste of their own medicine as of late. One of their biggest competitors, Google, makes a myriad of apps in the Apple App Store. They have recently found better ways to improve their pre-installed apps better than Apple has. While this is opinion based, it is based on experience. I personally use Google’s Maps and Gmail apps instead of Apple’s pre-installed apps that do the same thing. I think they are better with functionality and simply work better for my style. These apps are incredibly easy to use if you have a Google account that you can use across all the apps. Apple has not made its own emailing service which is something that I think will come out in the future. Apple has been in the news for its maps app for the wavy terrain not being realistic. Apple’s mail app has not always been incredibly user friendly either. While Apple has been taking ideas from third party developers, other companies have been finding ways to undermine Apple with better apps. This has been incredibly hard for companies to do because it is Apple’s app store so you have to play by their rules. There is no true way of knowing whether or not people like, for instance, Apple’s or Google’s maps app. The reason being that Apple does not put their own apps in the “Top Charts,” you can only find Apple’s apps in the search bar. You only see what the third party developers apps that are the most downloaded. This goes for top free and top purchased apps.

    The article speaks on how data is used within these companies to find new niches in the market. Amazon does this incredibly well too, they see when consumers click on a category, product, and even when you add something to your bag. Apple recently introduced a credit card from their company that would work like any Visa or Mastercard. Not that Apple did not have an enormous amount of data to work with before, now they have data on where and what you are buying at any time. This is the first time they are being able to collect data from consumers that is outside of the consumer buying services or products from Apple themselves. This opens up a door for possibilities for Apple. They have had ideas about different business ventures that they were unsure of doing. This will allow them to more accurately make better business decisions.

    My question is when do the laws come into play to have Apple throttled back a bit from becoming too strong in the market? As long as there are other players in the market, there is not a monopoly. That is what the law suggests at least, but there can be rules and regulations inside their own services to stop that. Apple’s rules for apps going on their app store are extremely restrictive and they take a 15-30% cut from all purchases (Apple). Cutting down the percentage so that the smaller developers do not have to take such a big hit on the in-app purchases.

  4. Emily Rodger September 13, 2019 at 6:33 pm #

    Over the years, Apple has risen to be probably the biggest technology company worldwide. Pretty much almost everyone has at least one Apple product. The rise of Apple throughout the years has become a huge disadvantage for other companies because it is becoming harder and harder to compete with such a successful brand. This article primarily talks about how Apple is “copying” other well-known apps by incorporating the same concepts into their own products. Some people call this copying, but I would personally say that it is a good selling strategy on Apple’s part. Apple is already the dominant and leading competitor in this market, so the more features they add to their technology, the less competition they will have. As stated in the article, the only constant thing about technology is that it is always changing. I think that Apple “copying” these other apps is a good way to make the other companies work harder and become more innovative.
    Another point made in this article was that Apple uses their App Store to see how successful other apps are. Apple has the ability to see the top ranking apps downloaded and see how long people spend on those particular apps. Apples ability to do this seems like a huge disadvantage to the other successful apps because they are practically handing their ideas over for Apple to take. Although this is primarily the reason how Apple gets their new ideas, I do not think it is that fair to those apps who originally created the concept. Those apps really have no other choice but to put their ideas on the Apple store, but then their content is being tracked and possibly copied by Apple if it is a trending concept. I would have to agree with the previous commenters, that there should be some sort of motion put into place to make the playing field more even between Apple and the other app creators so that Apple does not completely take over the industry.

  5. Walter Dingwall September 13, 2019 at 6:52 pm #

    Well, “it’s a bittersweet symphony, it’s life,” sings Richard Ashcroft, vocalist for The Verve. No truer could this be when The Rolling Stones took the band to court over the use of a similar melody to The Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time.” The case which ended in the royalties of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” song going to The Rolling Stones.
    In the music industry, the laws and regulations used in settling disputes over intellectual property rights have developed greatly in favor of keeping a creator’s product unique to their self and their brand. Often have bands seen cases brought over uncredited cover songs and similar sounding tunes. It was not always the case, however, that the original creative peoples were held as such and, thus, they were left to compete with a more current, more popular version of their product with little hope.
    Now, the problem lies in the new favorite entertainment business, phone apps. The time spent on the phone is no longer for the phone call, but to sift through the multitude of apps, accessible to the phone owners. This creates jobs in design and other creative fields for a whole new field. App creators spend their hours as song writers, painters, sculptors and the lot would their selves in the studios. The difference in this new app field is the vehicles on which their creation is distributed.
    Reed Albergotti’s article focuses on the Apple’s App Store and the difficulty app creators have getting their product to the consumer. More than having to birth a brilliant, new app that consumers will enjoy in great masses, the app must make its way through the review board. If the app is well functioning and appears safe, it should pass through to being placed in the App Store. What else stands in the way of the creators, as stated in the article, is that Apple employees may peek at incoming apps under review, which isn’t allowed. Even if they don’t do this, they can see the apps’ productivity after addition to the app store and make an app of similar manner. The problem here is that there is nothing that is stopping Apple from maintaining a monopoly on apps in the App Store in this copycat fashion.
    In May 2019, the people did seek to bring a class-action lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court based on antitrust laws regarding Apple’s creation of apps similar to ones already existing in Pepper V Apple Inc.. The Supreme Court decide by a vote of 5 to 4 in favor of Pepper due to the “Illinois Brick Doctrine,” which holds, in this instance, that the App Store users who have purchased apps may sue Apple directly as they are, in fact, maintaining the purchasing prices.
    Apple tried to get around this by claiming they charge a 30 percent commission from the app creators, which accounts for the prices set in the app store (30 percent commission of app price + the app creators’ set price). They were trying to say the commission added did not change the fact that consumers were still paying the price set by the creators. And in good news, Apple purchasers, this did not work, and this seemingly impenetrable monopoly may be attacked.
    The times are changing as they did for the music industry. App creators in the Apple ecosystem are getting the standards and treatments they deserve for their intellectual property.
    Ironically, The Verve has recently earned back the rights to royalties on “Bittersweet Symphony.” Goodness is this a strange time.

  6. Jessica Romero September 18, 2019 at 12:05 am #

    Apple has been the most valuable company for the past few years according to Forbes and this article touches on how powerful the billion-dollar corporation truly is. I do agree there is a quality control issue and it is hard to determine whether someone came up with an idea first or not. While I do believe Apple is ahead of its time, I also think they purposely delay the launch of applications or certain features because they want to be able to have new innovations in the future. While I do believe some companies use their power to blatantly steal from smaller companies because they know it would be almost impossible to fight. In the article, it talks about how Apple is stealing property of many app developers that are seen on the popular pages in the App Store. The period-tracking app Clue is seemed to be facing these issues with Apple’s new feature in its Health app to help women track their cycles. It is unknown whether Apple has deliberately stolen these ideas and perfected them. Apple has access to the data in the App Store and I’m sure this was used to their advantage in order to admire ideas and tweak them and market them to their already existing customers. Copycat companies are a reality of doing business, most companies are selling the same products, but they all have features that sets them apart. In multiple industries one may find that there are usually many options to pick from whether it is FedEx, UPS, Google Home and Amazon Echo, Starbucks or Dunkin—Competition is healthy but what this article explains is that it is generally harder for startup companies to become successful. I admit Apple should let their smaller competitors have a moment to shine, but it’s better for them to ‘sell-out’ and combines their apps with Apple if they want more success and fewer struggles trying to fight them. Unfortunately, ‘copycat’ companies like Apple won’t be first and won’t be the last we see of this. It is something that has been going on in other industries as well such as the music, beauty, and fashion industry. Especially in the fashion industry with ‘fast-fashion’ brands copying the bigger brands with almost exact styles at half the price, it’s unfair but they try to sell to a lower price point and that is respectable. I do believe it’s interesting to say that Apple is violating anti-trust laws and we should come to a fair decision by meeting in the middle for both big corporations and smaller companies to have success.

  7. Victoria Balka September 19, 2019 at 7:30 pm #

    Before reading this article whenever Apple announced a new feature that would be installed on their phones, I would get excited but, now I realize that they are getting these ideas based off of older apps and are running them out of business. Apple is taking advantage of being one of the biggest technology companies by letting people sell and develop apps for their app store, then tracking to see what apps are doing the best, so that Apple can create their own version of that app leading the original company to go out of business. In the beginning of iPhone, you used to have to download apps for many features, like flashlights and emojis, that are now just installed on your iPhone before you even buy it. The way Apple is doing this and stealing ideas from successful apps is not right and they are basically turning themselves into a monopoly. Many people have accused Apple of abusing their place which may lead app developers to not want to release their apps to the Appstore since they do not want their idea being taken by Apple and causing their own apps to become failures. Senator Warren from Massachusetts said, “Either they run the platform, or they play in the store. They don’t get to do both at the same time.” She is saying how Apple should not be allowed to run the app store while making their own versions of apps to also be selling on their Appstore. With some of the largest companies, Apple and Amazon, being caught stealing other’s high selling ideas and making their own versions, many creators do not want to risk their ideas being stolen from them when they publish their creation.
    If Apple gains an anti-trust lawsuit from their actions, there would most likely be a similar result as the Microsoft anti-trust lawsuit. Microsoft was in trouble after stealing and whipping out their competitor in the web browser area. Considering Apple is doing a very similar thing with the apps in their Appstore and the apps that are pre-installed in their phones, I would expect them to have to settle in a potential lawsuit like Microsoft did. I will now be more aware that when Apple announces new features on their phones, it was probably someone else’s idea that they stole to sell on their own. With the features that iPhones come with rapidly expanding, the number of apps and companies suffering from Apple taking away the marketability of the apps they created is also rapidly increasing and many app developers are suffering because of this. In order to fix the problem Apple should stop stealing features that top selling apps offer and create their own ideas and apps to install on their phones instead. Apple is turning themselves into a large monopoly and will cause a lot of problems with the stealing of successful app ideas.

  8. Nicholas Hicks September 20, 2019 at 7:28 pm #

    This article provides many points that I both agree and disagree with. First of all the author spends the majority of this article discussing the cases where Apple has copied ideas from apps in its store and integrated those functionalities into the core phone, essentially eliminating the market for those apps. While this is unfortunate for those app developers, I don’t see how this is not within apple’s right as a platform and developer. Apple has the necessary task of improving the iphone and adding features with every iteration in order to drive new phone sales and the only way to do this is by adding core functionality that may have been previously overlooked or not thought of by internal teams at Apple. For instance, the idea of adding a period tracking function is an excellent idea that I was surprised to learn was not already available through the Health and Wellness app. The fact that a third-party developer produced a product that fulfilled this functionality should not prevent Apple from being able to add it to their core app functions. What app developers should be focusing on is building apps that provide a service that apple would not integrate into their base platform. More specialized apps would target a smaller customer base but at the trade off of them not having to fear apple making them obsolete with the unveiling of the newest IOS. Another thing brought up in this article is the method apple takes to access app data and utilize it before releasing that data to other developers on their platform. While it is of course an apple designed platform and as such they have the right to use metrics collected from it however, they like it would be a much fairer business practice to allow all relevant parties to view the data at the same rate and availability. Perhaps doing something like that to try and equalize the playing field would alleviate the complaints of some of the app developers on their platform.

  9. Marion Waterkeyn September 25, 2019 at 10:03 pm #

    The fact that Apple copies other developers’ ideas doesn’t surprise me. They have the data, so it would be a waste if they don’t use it to improve the services they offer. The more data they have, the more they can analyze users with as goal to increase their experience. In other words, they are just trying to be as successful as possible. Until now Apple got away with copying master ideas from developers that put an insane amount of time and money in their application. Thanks to their big data they only need a few clicks to understand the customer’s interest in the app and their needs. It then is a piece of cake for the Apple programming employees to copy the idea, include it in the iPhone, and even improve it towards the customers need. Seeing my company going from $30,000 income a month to nearly $0 would totally destroy me. Yes, this happened to many companies including Clue, the app that many women used to track their periods. Once apple includes your application idea in the iPhone, users simply delete your application as they don’t need another application on their phone since it would just tell them the exact same thing as the iPhone does and take up extra storage place.
    As stated in the article, “companies generally don’t sue Apple because of the difficulty and expense in fighting the tech giant”. However, now that so many companies have been shut down by apple’s business model they should, for instance, start a class action against Apple. A class action is a lawsuit where a plaintiff sues a defendant on behalf of a large group of people that have the same complaint.
    I am convinced that it is extremely important to address the problem of Apple stealing / copying ideas as it totally discourages developers and destroys competition which is negative for the iPhone users. Since everybody now has the app included in their Iphone, they do not use the other similar apps anymore. The companies developing the app go bankrupt and don’t work on new ideas to improve their service for the customer anymore. Apple is working on a lot of other things and, therefore, also doesn’t spend a lot of time improving the idea copied by the initial application. This means that users don’t get a chance to take advantage of the otherwise improved application.
    A solution might be that Apple has to make a deal with the company they are copying the idea of. For example, giving them a commission whenever a customer uses their idea.
    I would also encourage developers to patent their ideas. This would force Apple to license your patent if they want to copy your idea. However, once you start building an application you should be aware of this risk. The big companies build big projects and then leave the trivial, easy tasks over to us. Apple created a sophisticated platform, while citizens build easy applications to put on the platform. If the application you put on their platform is successful they will or buy it over or copy it.

  10. Corinne Roonan October 17, 2019 at 11:30 am #

    This is one of the least shocking articles I have read in a long time. Apple, a huge company, a leading oligopoly, is taking smaller apps ideas and using them as their own on the devices? Talk about a shocker. For not one second did I ever truly think that Apple was not doing this. It has the power to crush other companies like ants under their feet, stealing ideas for apps and making much more popular ones solely because they can include the app in almost mandatory phone updates for users. This does not mean the app works better or has more features (although it usually does because Apple has ample resources to throw into app creation while smaller companies, start-ups, or independent programmers do not), but the app gains quick popularity because it is automatically given to the user of the iPhone.

    There is no need for the user to go on the app store and search and select a health app anymore because the iPhone comes with it. Same goes for email, compass, wallet, and a bunch of other applications. Of course Apple is going to use the power it has to take the ideas of other apps on the app store because it has the power to do so. If the ideas for the apps they took the ideas of were so individual and new, the creator would have gotten a patent before launching most likely in order to protect their ideas. Most of the apps that Apple has pre-downloaded onto their phones have hundreds of alternatives on the app store. Apple creates their own version of these apps in order to continue to work toward oligopoly or even monopoly status. If Apple can produce every single app that the users need, then there is no competition with outside creators, which directs more money towards Apple.

    Is this a good business strategy? Sure it is. Is it totally moral? Probably not. Apple is not concerned with morals though, they are concerned with money and money only. What does that mean for small app creators and developers? It means they have to come up with groundbreaking ideas, patent protect them, or do something Apple cannot do, which is a difficult and daunting task in itself.

  11. Mikaela Battaglia November 6, 2019 at 10:11 pm #

    It is no secret that tech giants are some of the greatest powers in the world, hoarding loads of data on its users and using it for their own economic gains. Although this has been going on for years, I think it is wrong yet smart on Apple’s part. Large companies are driving small ones out of business by literally copying their ideas and implementing them into their phones. While not originally the creator of the apps, Apple now has the monopoly over many features that are common in everyday iPhone user’s lives. There is only one place to use the flashlight app and that is in the phone itself, which is why it is now useless for users to download a separate app. While companies are constantly competing, I do think Apple has done many of them dirty. Apple should compensate the companies that they stole the ideas from. While this seems like a simple solution, it is all but that. Because multiple companies came up with similar apps, it would be difficult and expensive for Apple to compensate each individual app.
    As many of us iPhone users know, the new update gave us new features already implemented into the Apple ecosystem. Many women use apps to track their menstrual cycle, so they know certain important dates that may help with women wanting to become pregnant. However, now that this app is free to use on the iPhone with the new update, that directly drives popular menstrual cycle apps out of business.
    As I have stated previously that I think it is wrong for Apple to do this, I do think that there are some benefits to it. While third party apps are effective and have been used for years, there is nothing that can beat an app that comes straight from Apple, when using an Apple product. There are just certain aspects of Apple created apps that work so well with iPhones (or other Apple products), that are easy to use for users, and are already right there when they open the phone. No need to go to the app store to download the app and possibly have to pay an extra fee, it is right there. No one is stopping Apple, and small companies already know to beware when dealing with the tech giant.

  12. Danielle Blanco November 7, 2019 at 2:27 pm #

    Before reading this article, I was unaware that Apple’s app store serves two purposes. The purpose is to be a provider of access to independent apps and giant’s competitor to them. Basically, this means that Apple pulls some ideas from apps that are available in the app store to develop new features for the company’s products. Imitation is not a foreign concept in the tech industry. However, the business practices that Apple conducts in is different than other companies. The business practice is a common example of large tech companies building too much power. Apple is able to track which apps are popular among their consumers and that way they can implement new features that are like the popular app. The is a major advantage for Apple because it has the capability to keep track of consumers’ preferences while still running the app store. By deciding what is important to the consumers, the company can remain popular and relevant. However, this is a downfall for app producers and apps on the apple store. The app may be doing well up until Apple pulls some key ideas from the app. Once it does so, there is no reason for the consumer to download the app This is not considered a legal issue because Apple is not copying the application exactly. Instead, it is just pulling some key concepts. To me, I feel as though this is an abuse in power. Apple offers the apple store for innovators to upload their applications for consumers to download and sometimes buy. I believe that Apple should respect the boundaries of the app store and allow people to profit from their applications without the worry of apple taking their ideas. This could also be a point to use when talking about tech companies gaining too much power. Apple is taking away the power of people being able to produce their ideas and is slowly becoming more powerful. However, if the app is one that consumers need to buy, and if Apple takes some ideas from them, will they have a right to sue. If Apple is taking away their ideas, the app creators are losing profits due to their ideas being imitated. I wonder why no app creators have come forward about their ideas being copied. I am not sure if before entering into the app store and publishing their app for download, that the creator must agree with Apple that they have the right take ideas or protects Apple from law suits. This is an interesting topic to go further into, especially when the government is investigating the power that major tech companies have. Also, this could be a topic that could come into play when deciding if new laws need to be put in place concerning big tech company business regulations.

  13. Joseph M. November 7, 2019 at 8:56 pm #

    Apple is the all-powerful ruler of its own App Store. This is the way it should be. They should not face regulation concerns over creating a competing product to a member of its App Store because Apple itself is also an app developer. It is the choice of these companies to become a part of the App Store, no one is forcing them to sell through Apple. It is not that different than store-brand products that are similar to and often times derived from the successful products and brands that are stocked on shelves. Apple is also seeing market trends with a closer viewpoint than most, much like large retailers. It is the advantage of having a storefront, real or virtual. With this information, retailers can pick and choose the products they want to make based on what makes the most money. This is not criminal nor unethical, just properly practiced capitalism. They are providing a service in a better manner for their customers. Any implicit advantage the company has is purely by its own smart design.

  14. Liam H November 7, 2019 at 9:54 pm #

    Application developers face a tricky situation when it comes to putting their creations on Apple’s App Store. It is necessary for developers to put their applications on the App Store, but they also put themselves at risk to be copied by Apple. If Apple sees an application have success, they have the ability to copy the core of the app and make money off it themselves. The example the article discusses with the menstrual cycle tracking app called Clue is a prime example of how Apple is able to dominate the tech industry. With Apple’s new software update, a menstrual cycle program is offered in their Health application that comes preinstalled on every Apple device. Between every woman already having the app on their device and being able to use its features for free, compared to paying for a subscription to use the features on the Clue app, most woman will chose to use Apple’s version. This is going to cause the creators of the Clue app to lose most of their subscriptions and eventually make the app irrelevant. This is not a new technique for Apple, as Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs once said that Apple has “always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Apple also has an unfair advantage of being able to monitor how much time users spend on an independent application and collect a immense amount of other information relating to the popularity and use of all the applications on the App Store. With all of the advantages Apple has when it comes to making money off applications, it is very hard for independent application developers to compete.

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