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

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
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!)

Top Rated Comments

randyhudson Avatar
14 weeks ago
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
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macsorcery Avatar
14 weeks ago
apple is busy diverting all power to keep emulators out of the app store. no time for scammy apps.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Oblivious.Robot Avatar
14 weeks ago
Does Apple still get their cut from these scam apps? Maybe there is our answer. :rolleyes:
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DHagan4755 Avatar
14 weeks ago
This is unacceptable. The App Store is supposed to be better than side loading, according to Apple. But how, when they're allowing this stuff to go on?
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
easy4lif Avatar
14 weeks ago
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.”
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
turbineseaplane Avatar
14 weeks ago
The pernicious thing about the Apple App Store is that consumers trust it way more than they actually should (thx to Apple marketing), which somewhat ironically makes it one of the BEST places to run scams.

Once you’re “in”, you have access to consumers with their guard down and easy payments just a click away.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

us subscription revenue 2021

Sensor Tower: iOS Users Spent $13.5 Billion on Top 100 Subscription Apps in 2021, Up 31% Year-on-Year

Friday February 25, 2022 3:21 am PST by
Consumer spending on the top 100 non-game subscription-based apps across mobile platforms grew 41% year-on-year to $18.3 billion in 2021, up from 13 billion in 2020, according to a new report from analytics firm Sensor Tower. According to the data, revenue from subscription apps purchased on the App Store and the Google Play Store represented around 14% of the $131.6 billion that consumers...
Apple One Apps Feature 2

Apple Music, App Store and Other Apple Services Again Experiencing Outage [Update: Fixed]

Tuesday March 22, 2022 2:30 pm PDT by
Apple's services and apps appear to be experiencing yet another outage, with complaints on Twitter about problems with Apple Maps, the App Store, Apple Music, Weather, Podcasts, the Apple online store, and more. The System Status page is displaying outages for the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Books, the Mac App Store, and Podcasts at the current time, as well as issues with Weather, Apple...
app store review scam

App Store Scam App Required a Good Review to Function at All

Wednesday May 26, 2021 7:21 am PDT by
An app that demanded at least a three-star review to function got through the App Store review process, it has been found (via The Verge). iOS developer Kosta Eleftheriou discovered that the "UPNP Xtreme" app, which claimed to let users stream video to a TV, presented the system's App Store rating box as soon as it opened. The rating box could not be escaped from and it was not possible to...
app store blue banner

Apple Updates App Store Guidelines as Part of Agreement With U.S. Developers

Friday October 22, 2021 1:00 pm PDT by
Apple today announced it has updated its App Store Review Guidelines with three key changes related to outside-of-app communications, collecting contact information within an app, and in-app events featured in the App Store. In late August, Apple announced it had reached a $100 million settlement that, pending court approval, would resolve a class action lawsuit from U.S. developers who...
app store blue banner

Developers Complain as App Store Feature Promotes Rip-Off Apps

Thursday August 5, 2021 6:12 am PDT by
Apple has featured a number of apps with disproportionately expensive subscriptions on the App Store, arousing the ire of some developers. The App Store feature on the Australian App Store, first highlighted by Beau Nouvelle on Twitter, is called "Slime relaxations" and reportedly features apps that are non-functional and seek to charge disproportionately costly in-app purchase...
app store blue banner

'Report a Problem' App Store Option Returns to Combat Scams

Monday October 4, 2021 5:04 am PDT by
After being removed several years ago, Apple has restored the "Report a Problem" option on the App Store in an effort to flag issues and combat scams. Spotted by Richard Mazkewich and Kosta Eleftheriou and highlighted by The Verge, the option allows users to report individual App Store listings in iOS 15. When selected, the option directs users to a website with a drop-down menu to report...
appstore

Phil Schiller on App Store Knockoffs in 2012: 'Is No One Reviewing These Apps?'

Thursday May 6, 2021 1:49 pm PDT by
Knockoff apps have long been a problem in the App Store, with scam apps sneaking past reviewers to compete with genuine apps and steal sales, and 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. At the time, Temple Run was a super popular iOS exclusive title, and...
app store safe secure

Developer Highlights How Fake Apps Scam Users Via Apple's In-App Purchasing System

Wednesday April 7, 2021 4:59 am PDT by
Apple hosts millions of apps on the App Store, calling the platform a "safe and trusted" place to discover apps. While mainly true, Apple has come under criticism for hosting many different scam apps on the platform, some even raking in millions in revenue. In February, developer Kosta Elefherious highlighted how many of his own apps, including the popular Apple Watch keyboard, FlickType,...

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Pro Purple Front and Back MacRumors Exclusive

iPhone 14 Pro Renders Highlight Multiple Design Changes

Wednesday May 25, 2022 8:56 am PDT by
Leaker Jon Prosser today shared ostensibly accurate renders of the iPhone 14 Pro, providing the most accurate look yet at what the device could look like when it launches later this year. In the latest video on YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Prosser revealed renders of the iPhone 14 Pro made by Apple concept graphic designer Ian Zelbo, highlighting a range of specific design changes...
iPhone 13 Always On Feature

iPhone 14 Pro Screen Refresh Rate Upgrade Could Allow for Always-On Display

Tuesday May 24, 2022 7:23 am PDT by
Last year's iPhone 13 Pro models were the first of Apple's smartphones to come with 120Hz ProMotion displays, and while the two iPhone 14 Pro models will continue to feature the technology, their screens could well boast expanded refresh rate variability this time round. To bring ProMotion displays to the ‌iPhone 13 Pro models‌, Apple adopted LTPO panel technology with variable refresh...
iPad Pro USB C Feature Coral

Deals: Apple's iPad Pro Reaches Up to $449 Off in Amazon's Latest Sales

Wednesday May 25, 2022 10:09 am PDT by
Amazon is marking down a wide variety of 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models this week, with prices starting as low as $749.00 for the 11-inch tablet. You'll find the full list of sales below, all of which can be found on Amazon. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep...
apple account card

Wallet App Now Supports Apple Account Cards on iOS 15.5

Wednesday May 25, 2022 5:01 pm PDT by
Apple appears to have recently updated the Wallet app to allow users to add an Apple Account Card, which displays the Apple credit balance associated with an Apple ID. If you receive an App Store or Apple Store gift card, for example, it is added to an Apple Account that was previously visible in the App Store and Apple Store apps. As of today, the Apple Account balance can also be added to...
Apple Tap to Pay iPhone

Apple Stores Rolling Out iPhone-to-iPhone Contactless Payments Starting Today

Wednesday May 25, 2022 6:54 am PDT by
Apple in February unveiled a new "Tap to Pay on iPhone" feature that will allow compatible iPhones to accept payments via Apple Pay, contactless credit and debit cards, and other digital wallets, with no additional hardware required. Apple began testing the feature at its Apple Park Visitor Center earlier this month, and now Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has tweeted that the feature will begin...
apple wwdc 2022

Apple Shares WWDC 2022 Schedule, Keynote to Take Place June 6 at 10:00 a.m PT

Tuesday May 24, 2022 9:06 am PDT by
Apple today confirmed that the keynote event for the Worldwide Developers Conference will begin at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time on June 6, the first day of WWDC. The keynote will be an online-only event, though a select number of developers have been invited to the Apple Park campus for a viewing event. In addition to confirming the keynote date and time, Apple has shared the full WWDC 2022...