Apple removes $300k/month scam app, developer still at large

The app was a rip-off of a popular typing app created by Kosta Eleftheriou.

What you need to know

  • Apple has removed a clone of the popular ‘FlickType’ app for Apple Watch that netted scammers $300,000 a month.
  • Despite this, the developers have another app on the app store charging unsuspecting users over $400 a year for subscriptions.

Apple has removed a clone of ‘FlickType’ that was scamming users out of thousands of dollars every month, but the developers and a similar app remain at large.

From a feature by TechCrunch:

Kosta Eleftheriou, one of the founders of the Fleksy keyboard app (who was acquired by Pinterest in 2016), has — since March 2018 — been applying his expertise in autocorrect algorithms to make typing on the Apple Watch’s tiny screen not only possible but “simple, enjoyable and highly effective”, as Forbes’ reviewer put it….

The problem for Eleftheriou is all his genuine hard work is being undercut by copycat app makers who are able to leverage weak App Store enforcement to profit unfairly and at his expense.

The scam goes like this: A bunch of Watch keyboard apps are published that purport to have the same slick features as FlickType but instead lock users into paying eye-watering high subscription fees for what is, at best, a pale imitation.

According to the report, fake imitation apps were flooded with fake reviews and ratings to inflate their App Store rankings and to try to convince users to download them.

The report highlights not only the issue of buying fake App Store and Google Play reviews but also Apple’s rules that are supposed to prevent fraudulent reviews. According to Eleftheriou, the fake app ‘KeyWatch’, which was netting its creator $300,000 a month, is now gone from the App Store. However, the developer and a similar app pulling in $200,000 every month with $416 a year subscriptions remain at large.

As the report notes, the issue calls into questions the rules around fraudulent app development and Apple’s enforcement of them:

If a developer with so much pedigree can’t reliably sell his wares on the App Store what does that say about Apple’s ‘premium’ marketplace?

You can read the full story here.

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