Exploring App Store Scams and Quick Profit Schemes

Exploring the App Store can often lead to confusion, especially when users encounter multiple apps that not only share similar names but also appear nearly identical. This issue arises particularly when an app gains some level of success, prompting a slew of imitators that capitalize on the original app’s popularity to mislead consumers.

A detailed examination by Ars Technica highlighted this issue using the example of ‘A Beautiful Mess’, a photo-editing app that became a victim of numerous copycats soon after its release. The original app quickly rose in popularity, which was followed by the emergence of several clones.

Shortly after its launch in mid-May, ‘A Beautiful Mess’ saw its intellectual property blatantly copied by various developers.

Clones with names confusingly similar to the original began to flood the App Store, misleading users into believing these apps were also developed by the original creators, which was not the case.

Ars Technica reports:

The first clone surfaced in June, mimicking the original app’s icon and screenshots but altering its name slightly to ‘A Beautiful Mess Free’. Another clone called ‘A Beautiful Mess Plus’ was developed by someone named John Harlampa. By early August, there were seven such clones available on the App Store, with one even breaking into the top 50 apps, as per AppTweak.

This particular clone remained in the top charts until it was removed on August 19.

Developers facing such infringement can report these issues to Apple, but the process doesn’t always lead to immediate action. Some clone developers might delay the process by pretending to address the complaints, thereby prolonging their app’s availability on the store.

The creation of these clones is not straightforward:

Cloning involves complex steps starting from using a jailbroken device to decrypt the app, which varies depending on the app’s architecture. Newer apps often use techniques like address space layout randomization (ASLR), adding further complications in accessing the unencrypted binary.

Once the binary is obtained, cloners can alter it and upload their version to the App Store under a different name.

Unfortunately, even when Apple takes action against such clones, the original developers suffer losses in potential App Store revenue, which are difficult to recover.

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Justin is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to the Apple news community. With a keen eye for detail, Justin covers everything from the latest iPhone releases to in-depth reviews of the MacBook Pro and Apple Watch. His insightful articles help readers stay informed about the ever-evolving world of Apple products. Justin’s expertise and approachable writing style make him a trusted voice for Apple enthusiasts everywhere.