PC World has referred to Apple as a “walled garden” in its discussion of Apple’s security issues. If that is true, however, snakes (plural) have been creeping into it as of late. In just the first six full months of this year alone (and the first half of July), Apple has battled security issues with malicious apps as well as cases of copyright infringement in its App Store. It seems that Apple is currently facing its own case of “snake invasion.”
In January, the iPhoneography blog discovered that a fake “Camera +” application made its way into the App Store. Someone discovered the application and, curious as to whether or not it was genuine, contacted the group TapTapTap to verify. It turns out that the application was fake. TapTapTap wrote the following message to Apple:
“Oh, Apple and all your all too often disappointing approval process. Thanks to Glyn Evans for noticing this Camera + fake: iphoneography.com” (January 21, 2012).
In February 2012, the fake Camera + app was succeeded by another pseudoapplication, “Pokemon Yellow,” which was pulled only after it came in second place and for top apps in the App Store and racked up an estimated $10,000 in profits for the fake developer. The app, sold by Daniel Burford (known as “home of anime”), was a copyright infringement on the famous Nintendo game. The ninety-nine cent app was detected by Kotaku blog writer Brian Ashcroft, after which the announcement went viral across the web before Apple removed it from the App Store. The introduction of a fake Nintendo game into the App Store by Home of Anime shows the lengths to which some consumers will go to press their desires. Although Nintendo understands the amount of consumer demand for its games, the company refuses to budge. Nintendo will make games for its products and its products alone, says Nintendo North American President Reggie Fils-Aime. To see the company’s official response to the fake app, go here.
In the same month as the Pokemon scandal, TechCrunch reported that other games were copied, given semi-tweaked titles, and placed in the App Store:
- “Temple Run” was sold as “Temple Jump.”
- “Tiny Wings” was sold as “Tiny Birds.”
- “Words with Friends” was sold as “Numbers with Friends.”
- “Tiny Tower” was sold as “Dream Heights.”
- “Cut the Birds” was a plagiarized, combo version of “Angry Birds” and “Fruit Ninja,” two top-selling apps that stole the Angry Birds logo.
- “Pinterest” was placed in the App Store under Russian, Chinese, and German labels as “Pinspire.de,” “Pinme.ru,” and “Markpic.”
March of this year also saw its share of snake invasions. The magazine “The Verge” reports that the game Canabalt HD, the ninety-nine cent game in the App Store that lets you run with just the swipe of a finger, is also a copy of the iOS game Canabalt that is soon to get an update. However, the Canabalt HD in question here is fake; look for the real update that will come in the near future. Mano, the seller, has reportedly ripped off iOS users with other games under his name at the App Store that are nothing but slideshows that appear to be game apps. The name “Canabalt” was opened to the public by Semi Secret Software (the owners of the name patent) in 2010—though the replica of the game itself was prohibited (Mano did not abide by this legality). If you see this seller’s name on any app at the App Store, beware of him and do not purchase his applications.
June 2012 saw the combination of three “snakes” (fake apps) in Apple’s “walled garden” (App Store): 1) Fast Tools Pro, 2) Activator, and 3) Microsoft Word 2012. Fast Tools Pro is an app that claims it can help you create and add widgets to your home screen. Apple does not allow you to create and customize widgets on your desktop (without jailbreaking, that is), so Fast Tools Pro is no “Pro” at all. Activator is a legitimate app found in the Cydia app hub (SAURIK, created by Jay Freeman) that allows you to choose your settings as well as how to enact those settings: for example, swipes, touches, and taps. Instead, “Activator” as represented by the fake app is nothing more than some slide show on what you can do with the app (rather than the app itself). Microsoft Word 2012 is not due for release until this Fall; someone knew this and decided to cash in on the idea beforehand.
Recent events in the month of June include a fake Cydia app and a fake dreamboard app that claims you can customize your desktop themes and icons. On the surface, it looks as if jailbreaking has come to the App Store; when you download the Cydia application, as many have done to their deception, you find that the game is nothing more than a play on the phrase “Cydia pomonella,” a scientific term for “the worm in the apple”—or, in this case, a jailbreak worm in the Apple! The game description was given at the Apple Store, but quoted by Sebastien Page:
“Cydia funny and popular snake game you may remember from childhood. Its main character—a kind of caterpillar named Cydia. Collect all the apples and pass as many levels as you can.”
This game may be a popular “snake” game, as the description reminds us, but the game app is a snake, too! Although the game is honest in its description, to copy “Cydia,” the name of the jailbreaking app hub, is a case of copyright infringement. The fake dreamboard application is no different. Jailbreakers know that DreamBoard is a theme platform at Cydia that allows you to download numerous themes, from smartphone wallpaper to Hollywood celebrities, onto your jailbroken iDevice. The fake dreamboard, however, provides a few wallpaper themes but nothing impressive enough for the $2.99 price tag. Having downloaded the application (but not distraught over my $2.99), I can warn you honestly when I say, “Do not download this application.” With the exception of two or three Pac-Man themes, there is very little of the application (if anything at all) that even remotely mimics the jailbreak DreamBoard.
Is it the case that Apple finds these fake apps last instead of first because it is not the company’s responsibility to check them? Or, is Apple responsible for letting “snakes” into its “walled garden”? To find out, you will have to keep reading.