Assessing Clones for Apple

As a company, it is vital that we maintain our resolve against clone and spam apps. However, it is equally important to understand how our policy decision has impacted the app ecosystem at large. As you have been made aware of, unintended consequences have resulted in white-label applications that service government agencies and conferences being banned. Additionally, technologists assert that the policy hurts smaller app developing companies and small businesses that rely on less expensive, more generalized apps for customer reach.

To counteract the results, Apple as an organization has taken positive steps including:

  • In early 2018, it started waiving the $99 developer fee for all government and nonprofits. This is supposed to make the transition away from ‘white-label’ apps easier.
  • Smaller apps can still act as middlemen for smaller companies as long as the customized apps do not look similar.

While these updates have allowed for some greater clarification, the issue of clone and spam apps has not been solved. This memo will explore viable alternatives for Apple to pursue.

Alternative 1: Maintain current crack down on clone/spam apps while promoting a public communications strategy that app-creation tools whose business model does not rely on direct cloning should not be impacted.

+ While the policy can impact a few apps that the company might not be intentionally targeting, keeping it broad helps with enforcement.

+ Policy is already in place and there are companies that have abided by it without any major issues.

– This will lead to government agency apps needing to differentiate themselves or entirely centralize onto one app which becomes a major security concern.

– There is reputational risk associated with undertaking such a widely scrutinized move.

Alternative 2: Develop a secondary marketplace for potential clone/spam apps. Users can directly use the original Apple app store to search for apps that fully abide by the policies and a secondary app market for apps that do not abide by certain restrictions.

+ This will help make both the user experience and company regulation experience easier as the primary market will have the originals applications.

+ This segmentation gives consumers some choice around which app they prefer as opposed to completely banning the apps.

– Unfortunately, this alternative will result in market segmentation that can result in larger app companies or developers benefitting.

– Many of the government service apps that were banned will now be grouped in with many spam apps which can lead to other vulnerabilities being exposed for the consumer.

Alternative 3: Require two account titles for app submissions- the primary one indicating the owner and the secondary one indicating the app developer.

+ this move will help Apple and the consumer better understand who created the app in case there is similar code that is used in the company’s other applications.

+ Again, since the apps remain, the choice for using them is left up to the consumers. We as a company instead provide them with greater information.

– There will need to be an internal Apple regulatory body that makes sure that the account titles are being applied correctly.

– The proliferation of spam apps within the store would not be limited.

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Feasibility + +
Adoptability + +
Reputational cost +

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