Apple has started removing duplicate VoIP apps from the App Store.
The purge comes after a report highlighted a shady practice some developers have been using to game App Store search results. Plenty of clones still remain in other categories, however.
App Store guidelines — rule 4.3, to be precise — make it very clear that the same app cannot be released multiple times. Apple considers this spamming. But as is always the case, there are a few that have ignored that in an effort to attract more downloads.
Some developers are releasing exactly the same software under different names, keywords, and categories so that their titles are more likely to appear in App Store search results. A recent report highlighted one category of apps using this tactic.
Attack of the clones
TechCrunch discovered that the App Store was littered with VoIP clients, which provide users with a second phone number for calls and text messaging, that were all duplicates of the same app.
They all featured exactly the same design and functionality; the only thing that was different were their names, icons, and App Store descriptions.
TextMe, Inc. was one of the offending developers. In addition to “TextMe Up Second Phone Number,” it offered “Free Tone — Calling & Texting” and “Text Me — Phone Calls + Text.”
All three did exactly the same thing and even used the same screenshots in their App Store listings. But not anymore.
Apple starts its crackdown
Following the publication of this TechCrunch report, Apple has removed a dozen of these apps from the App Store, and they are no longer available to download.
All three TextMe releases have disappeared, alongside a bunch of other clones from BinaryPattern and Flexible Numbers LLC, Appverse Inc., and Dingtone Inc.
But it’s not just VoIP apps that were the problem. Other categories suffer from spamming, and are filled with identical releases that do identical things under different names.
Work to be done
JPEG Labs is another developer ignoring Apple’s guidelines. It currently has four different apps on offer — all of which let you print photos at Walgreens or CVS using exactly the same interface.
MailPix, Inc. does the same, and even acquired a third-party photo printing app from Photobucket just so that it could turn it into a clone of its other releases.
It’s clear that despite Apple’s strict guidelines, spamming remains an obvious problem. And because Apple isn’t consistent with its efforts to remove clones (it allows these apps to live on for months on end), some developers have no problem gaming the system over and over again.