When Clear was cloned
Clear, by Realmac Software (realmacsoftware.com), is a highly regarded to-do manager with a decidedly minimalist bent. Its emphasis on flat colours and gestural controls is now what you’d expect from an iOS app, but upon its release, most iPhone apps remained heavily textured. Naturally, Clear’s pioneering nature didn’t go unnoticed by App Store fakers, as Realmac’s Product Manager, Nik Fletcher, reveals. MacFormat: Do you recall when Clear was first cloned? Fletcher: We announced Clear in January 2012 at the Macworld/iWorld Expo in San Francisco, with a trailer video and hands-on demos, then submitted the app in early February. A few days before we launched, a clone arrived on the App Store ahead of us. The confusion was substantial, particularly on Twitter, and it was frustrating to see a poor imitation knock-off arrive before our app – though I don’t think it actually affected us. Perhaps if anything it helped drive more publicity as a part of the [lead up] to Clear’s launch. MacFormat: Do you think fakery impacts on customers? Have any ever complained to you about a fake Clear? Fletcher: It’s hard to know [the wider impact], but we’ve certainly had a few [emails] about knock-offs on other platforms, asking why they don’t sync with iCloud! MacFormat: How do you feel when your app – or some aspect of it – is ripped-off? Fletcher: It’s tough. The optimist in you tries to look at it as flattery. But when you pour so much effort and time into an app, to have verbatim rip-offs that miss the nuance of your work is very frustrating. For example, we spent a lot of time on Clear working on the exact feel of the swipe-to-complete interaction. It’s a driven animation that tracks your finger as you swipe. Most knock-offs don’t bother and simply use a fixed animation that runs regardless of the speed or amount of swiping you do. MacFormat: What have you done regarding fakes? Fletcher: Knock-offs aren’t easy to deal with. For apps that infringe our copyright – directly using our assets, or taking our icon but applying a different colour – we file a complaint with Apple. Otherwise, there’s not a lot we can do without spending a substantial amounts of money on chasing down someone normally located half-way around the world. At times, it felt a bit like Whac-A-Mole, with one knock-off of Clear appearing every few weeks during its first year on the App Store.
Still, for all the frustration at seeing the knock-offs, the process for reporting concerns has at least been greatly improved – there’s now an Apple website that automates a lot of the work [to file] a complaint. MacFormat: What tips do you have for anyone else who ends up in a similar situation? Fletcher: Well, instead of taking the legal route, where we bear all the cost, risk and time involved, we channel our grievances into ensuring that we keep making our apps constantly better in every update!