Virtual phone number apps play with the App Store with duplicates – TechCrunch


If you have searched for an app in the App Store to get a second phone number, it is likely that you have found dozens of apps with very little differences. A small number of businesses poll the App Store with duplicate applications. This strategy is against rules.

The review guidelines of the App Store are detailed rules that define what you can and can not do on the App Store. As soon as you create a developer account and submit an application to the App Store Review Team, you agree to comply with these rules. It's a long document, but rule 4.3 titled "Spam" is simple:

Do not create multiple set IDs of the same application. If your application has different versions for specific locations, sports teams, universities, etc., consider submitting a single application and indicate variations with the help of in-app purchase. Also avoid attacking an already saturated category; The App Store already has enough applications to fart, burp, flashlight and Kama Sutra. Spamming the store may result in your removal from the developer program.

An informant has examined a specific category in the App Store – VoIP applications that allow you to get a second phone number, send and receive calls and SMS from this new number. I have examined this category myself and here are the results of my investigation.

Companies do not even try to hide the fact that they have submitted multiple versions of the same application with different names and icons. But the basic features remain the same. Apple did not apply its own guidelines properly and the developers took advantage of this gray area.

Example 1: TextMe

As you can see on the company's website, TextMe currently operates three applications and is open about it – TextMe Up, TextMe and FreeTone. These three apps all have an average of 4.7 stars on the App Store with hundreds of thousands of reviews in total.

The wording is slightly different for each application. TextMe Up allows you to "call and text anywhere in the world from your mobile, your tablet and your computer," while TextMe allows you to "get a new phone number and start sending SMS and make free calls ", and FreeTone stands for"[enjoying] free calls and SMS to US and Canadian phone numbers. "

But if you look at the screenshots of the App Store, the company does not even care about changing screenshots or marketing copy.

"Our applications have a different marketing target," said Patrice Giami, co-founder and co-CEO of TextMe, Inc., during a phone interview. "They share the same code base, but we can enable or disable some features to differentiate applications. We manage this according to the competitive environment and if we need to optimize the distribution. "

Giami also believes that his company complies with the guidelines of the App Store. "Apple is doing a very systematic review. We are constantly being reviewed because we publish a lot of application updates. Apple never reported or contacted us – they never said we publish full clones of the same application, "he said.

TextMe uses the same developer account for its three applications, Text Me, Inc. Apple could easily compare those apps if it wished.

Example 2: BinaryPattern and Flexible Numbers LLC

This case is a bit more sophisticated. The company behind these apps has two different developer accounts and has tried to differentiate its lists a bit from the App Store. Similarly, the buttons and colors vary slightly from one application to another, but the same set of features is used.

Here are some screen shots that I took:

SMS / phone call Burner

Smiley private SMS

Texting Shield – Phone Number

Burner phone numbers SMS / Calls

Phone number of the business line

I contacted BinaryPattern / Flexible Numbers and I did not get an answer.

Example 3: Appsverse Inc.

This time, Phoner, Second Line and Text Burner share the same developer account. Even though these apps let you do the same thing, Appsverse has released its app in three different categories for the App Store: utilities, productivity and social networks.

By doing this, the company's applications appear in several categories. Text Burner is number 88 in social networks, Second Line, number 74 in productivity and Phoner, number 106 in the public services.

This seems a bit counterintuitive since Appsverse distributes their downloads across multiple applications. But I believe the main reason why the company publishes several apps is keyword optimization and search results from the App Store. He then chooses a different category for each application, but it is a side effect.

Appsverse has sent me the following statement:

"The directive promotes a healthy App Store ecosystem for both developers and users. It prevents the proliferation of similar applications that do not differentiate the business model, features, use cases and demographic appeal. "

Example 4: Telos Mobile and Dingtone Inc.

On paper, Dingtone and Telos look like two different applications from two different companies. I have downloaded the Dingtone application and I signed up with my email address. I then downloaded the Telos application and registered with the same email address. Here is the message I received:

I contacted Telos / Dingtone and I did not get an answer.

A game level zone

These companies have not done anything illegal. They took advantage of Apple's lack of control over a rule from the App Store. Posting multiple versions of the same application is an excellent strategy for optimizing the App Store. This way you can choose a different name, different keywords and different categories. It is very likely that potential customers see your app in the search results of the App Store.

Although Apple generally follows the rules of the App Store, some of them are not enforced. And it's unfair for application developers who abide by the rules. They can not compete as effectively as companies who know they can ignore certain rules.

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