Knockoff apps have long been a problem in the App Store, with scam apps sneaking past reviewers to compete with genuine apps and steal sales, and back in 2012, Apple’s Phil Schiller was absolutely furious when a fake app made it to the top of the App Store rankings, according to documents shared in the Epic v. Apple trial.
At the time, Temple Run was a super popular iOS exclusive title, and in February 2012, a fake version of Temple Run hit the App Store charts. Schiller sent out an email to Eddy Cue, Greg Joswiak, Ron Okamoto, Phillip Shoemaker, Matt Fischer, Kevin Saul, and others on the App Store team. “What the hell is this????” he asked. “How does an obvious rip off of the super popular Temple Run, with no screenshots, garbage marketing text, and almost all 1-star ratings become the #1 free app on the store?”
“Is no one reviewing these apps? Is no one minding the store?” he ranted on, before asking whether people remembered a talk about becoming the “Nordstrom” of App Stores in quality of service.
Phil Schiller in 2012, after a rip-off app hit #1: “What the hell is this?????
…. Is no one reviewing these Apps? Is no one minding the store?” pic.twitter.com/pNaozl6hv1
— Patrick McGee (@PatrickMcGee_) May 3, 2021
Since that 2012 rant, App Store reviewers have continued to struggle with knockoff apps that mimic real apps. A second document highlighted Minecraft knockoffs that had made it into the App Store not once, but twice, and was eating up Minecraft sales, and in a third 2015 document, Schiller comments that he “can’t believe” that Apple doesn’t have automatic tools to find and kick out scam apps.
Phil Schiller, 2015:
“[this scam app] is a great example of the stuff we should have automatic tools to find and kick out of the store. I can’t believe we still don’t.”
“and PLEASE develop a system to automatically find low rated apps and purge them!!” pic.twitter.com/fhFvja7vXs
— Jacob Terry (@jerkob) May 5, 2021
Scam iOS apps that defraud users and mimic real apps continue to be a problem to this day. In recent months, developer Kosta Eleftheriou has taken to speaking out against scam apps and highlighting notable scams in the App Store, bringing additional attention to the issue.