Have you heard the news? Apple recently removed certain VoIP applications because they were duplicate apps. If you are an app developer, take a moment to read this article and learn what this story could mean for you.
What Are Duplicate Apps?
Identical apps that have different names, keywords, and/or categories are considered duplicates.
These identical apps all serve the same purpose and have the same features but are given different names and keywords in order to reach a broader audience. However, this tactic is clearly forbidden according to rule 4.3 in the Apple App Store Guidelines.
Mobile App Guidelines
For both the Apple Store and Google Play Store there are specific guidelines for app developers to follow.
The Apple Store Review Guidelines states in rule 4.3, “Don’t create multiple Bundle IDs of the same app…Spamming the store may lead to your removal from the Developer Program.”
The Google Play Store takes the same approach with duplicate apps. According to the Developer Policy Center, under the repetitive content section, Google will not “allow apps that merely provide the same experience as other apps already on Google Play” and “Apps should provide value to users through the creation of unique content or services.”
Apple’s Recent Crackdown on Duplicate Apps
Although the punishment for duplicate apps is not always carried out, a recent case has shown that Apple may choose to at any time.
Duplicate applications are problematic in many categories, but Apple specifically targeted VoIP apps. This type of app provides alternate phone numbers to users.
TextMe, Inc. offered three apps with different titles, but the differences stopped there. These apps all had the same features. As a result, they were removed from the Apple Store.
Other categories have also become inundated with duplicate apps.
JPEG Labs and MailPix both have multiple apps that all serve the same purpose of printing photos at Walgreens or CVS. At this point, Apple has not removed these apps.
Apple has been inconsistent with enforcing rules, which causes some app developers to use unfair methods. Although Apple claims spamming may result in being removed from the store, this clearly isn’t always the case.
What You Can Learn
Apple hasn’t removed all duplicate apps, but don’t think you can get away with this shady strategy. Who is to say when Apple will choose to take action again? And which apps will be Apple’s next target?
As an app developer, you should take this as a warning. Apple may start to get more serious about the issue of duplicate apps, and when that happens you certainly don’t want to get caught.
So don’t be tempted to follow the rule breakers who get away with it. Just because they don’t suffer the consequences, doesn’t mean you won’t either.
What You Need To Do
While it is okay to get inspiration, don’t clone apps that are already available. Based on Google’s own guidelines, make your mobile app different from the competition.
Ideally, you would make your app better than its competitors. Use a very effective strategy called benchmarking to compare your own app to the competition.
But what should you do with multiple apps that have similar content and provide similar experiences? The answer is simple. Combine them into one app, rather than offering several.
The best thing you can do is play fair. Don’t rely on shady methods to get ahead. Instead, put some serious effort into making your app great using the 5 pillars of the most successful apps.
It would be in everyone’s best interest if Apple and Google both enforced guidelines that uphold certain standards. Hopefully, we will see more of that in the future. In the meantime, don’t rely on duplicate apps.
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