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.

More here.

Posted in Law, Technology and tagged , , , .

12 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. This article immediately stood out to me because it was completely new to me but also a little alarming to me. Everyone knows Apple and how big a company it is. However, I did not really know just how much power they really had and one of the ways as to why they keep on getting bigger and better. This article shows that and also exhibits the power difference that will always exist. The Apple App Store has been and is home to many apps with brilliant ideas. Apple gets to see them first and how they perform, if they perform well they can take their ideas for their own advantage. This a cruel but somewhat genius tactic by Apple. There is nothing the creators of these ideas can do and Apple is not hiding the fact that they do this as well. “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas,” Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said. Not only does Apple does this companies like Amazon do this as well. These companies need Apples support in order to perform well and progress, Apple is responsible for 71 percent of all U.S. revenue generated by mobile apps, according to Sensor Tower, a market research firm. If they try to sue, it will be extremely difficult and expensive to compete with a company with the size and power of Apple. It will also sever ties with Apple. Ironically, Apple may end up being the reason they are forced to shut down. I remember when I was younger I had an iPod touch, and had flashlight apps because there was no flashlight built in. As time when on Apple products began having flashlights built in, and the flashlight apps suddenly were nonexistent. To make matters worse Apple gets praised for their constant evolution and creativity, while the smaller companies fade away and some even cease to exist. This is another example of the power struggle or difference between are large company and smaller one. The large companies have worked for where and what they are today, and the smaller ones dream of becoming them. However, it seems that it will only be a dream and its unattainable. Things like “Getting Sherlocked” will always prevent smaller companies from ever getting the possibility of becoming bigger. It is unfair but it’s the world we live in, it is the game we play.

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