I released an iOS application called 'Translator Keyboard' at the beginning of October. It was the first app (that I'm aware of) to provide language translation from within a keyboard extension. During the first week of release it was featured on a variety of well known tech sites including MacRumours and TechCrunch. Soon after this, Apple featured the app globally on the main page of the App Store. Of course, this increased visibility led to a substantial number of downloads, and I consider it to be my first truly successful independent release. Two months on the number of downloads is tailing off, but there is still enough revenue being generated by the app to make it worthwhile for me to continue working on it.
On the 23rd November, however, another app was released - 'Translator Keyboard Universal'. Here's the two application icons side by side. Look familiar?
It's not just the name and the icon, though. Here's the splash screens:
Oh, and don't even get me started on the irony of that Copyright notice.
Lets see what they have to say about their app. They'd at least write their own app description, surely?
From a consumer standpoint, they're presented with two applications. Both have the same name and icon design. One's cheaper and appears to have more features. It's a no-brainer. Unfortunately, even when people specifically search for my application by name, I can't prevent them from stumbling across the impostor.
- Copy the name of another application, and append some sort of enhancement to the name. It could be 'SomeApp Universal', 'SomeApp Pro' or 'SomeApp HD'.
- Make sure that the artwork for the app closely resembles the artwork of the original application, so that consumers will think that they are related.
- Sell the app for cheaper than the original application. No one will question it, especially as he mentions that the app is on sale at the beginning of his description.
I should clarify that I have no issue with other people creating keyboards that include language translation. I was lucky to be first to market with this type of application, but I'm not under the impression that the idea was uniquely my own. In fact I know that I was not the only developer who was trying to bring this sort of product to market for the launch of iOS 8, and some of the other efforts I've seen have been really great.
I don't, however, appreciate someone trying to intentionally create confusion between their app and my own for their own profit. I put the time and effort in to marketing my app, which is the only reason anyone would be searching for the phrase 'Translator Keyboard' in the first place. It's a shame that some of those people will purchase an app which isn't the one they read about.
It's not as though it's a victimless crime either, lost sales means lost income for me. The real shame is that this isn't even a bad product, and could probably legitimately compete in the translation-keyboard-extensions market.
I have had some contact with the developer, who is insistent that this app has in no way copied mine. I've also contacted Apple, although it looks like their main course of action is to just put the two developers in contact with each other to squabble between themselves, and to be honest I don't blame them for not wanting to get involved in these type of disputes.
I've requested that the developer changes the name and the icon design. I know that the icon design isn't particularly innovative; I made it myself, and I'm no graphic designer. It's still the main way people identify my product, and it's unique enough not to be copied purely by chance. Regarding the name; as far as I'm concerned, 'Translator Keyboard' is my product name. Sure, it's more of a descriptive name than anything else, and I don't feel that I own that phrase, but as far as iOS-apps-with-keyboard-extensions-that-perform-language-translation go, get your own bloody name.
I'm unsure as to the scale of this problem on the App Store. Is this just an isolated incident, or is it a big problem in the store? If you've got any stories to share, post them in the comments.