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!

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