Apple accused of copying apps’ services for new iPhone : NPR

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Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WDC) in June.  Many of the features announced by Apple will replicate third-party app services, a practice known as

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WDC) in June. Many of the features Apple announced will replicate third-party app services, a practice known as “Sherlocking.”

NIC COURY/AFP via Getty Images/AFP

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NIC COURY/AFP via Getty Images/AFP

TapeACall is one of the most popular call recording apps, with millions of users paying a monthly fee to be able to capture a phone conversation with just one click.

But now the app faces competition from one of the richest and most powerful companies in the world: Apple.

As part of its new iOS 18 operating system, scheduled for release this fall, Apple will offer its own recording and transcription service seamlessly integrated with phone calls on iPhone. The Apple service will be able to access the back-end code that TapeACall, as a third-party application, cannot access.

TapeACall’s annual subscription is $79.99. Apple’s new recording feature is free.

“If I were TapeACall, I would say game over,” said Philip Shoemaker, a former Apple executive who helped oversee the company’s App Store.

TapeACall declined to comment. It wasn’t the only app to be Sherlocked, as longtime watchers call it.

At its Worldwide Developers Conference in Cupertino earlier this month, Apple unveiled new services similar to writing assistance app Grammarly; password manager app 1Password; Otter voice transcription app; Newji AI emoji app; and the Alltrails maps app. Its new AI assistant features perform functions similar to briefly buzzing AI hardware devices like the RabbitR1 and Humanity’s AI Pin.

When Shoemaker was at Apple, he said he regularly received complaints from small app developers angry that Apple was copying their services.

“Apple has all the data it needs. They can look at which applications are most used by their customers, and they can say, ‘Hey, this is a great idea, let’s integrate this into our operating system, we can do a much better job,’” he said. -he declares.

Apple has long been the subject of complaints about “Sherlocking”

This practice is known as “Sherlocking”.

It dates back to the 1990s, when Apple introduced a desktop search tool called Sherlock, which was surprisingly similar to another desktop search program, known as Watson. Since then, the term has stuck.

When NPR contacted several apps that analysts have called Sherlocked, the app companies did not express outrage. Instead, the apps released statements saying they welcomed competition and respected Apple.

For example, Grammarly spokesperson Yuki Klotz-Burwell wrote in a statement: “We welcome Apple to this exciting and thriving space where we have operated for over 15 years,” she wrote. . “Whenever new entrants enter our market, the reality is we see increased demand for Grammarly.”

Jesse Lyu, CEO of RabbitR1, told NPR: “Despite speculation and doubts from online critics, the numbers and responses we see from our users tell quite a different story,” he said. “We are happy to see that Apple shares a similar vision for the future of AI.”

Rick VanMeter was less optimistic. He is the executive director of the advocacy group Coalition for App Fairness, which represents more than 80 popular apps, including Spotify, Match Group and Epic Games, which has fought Apple in court for years over practices it considers anticompetitive.

“Many of these developers fear retaliation and are very careful in what they say about Apple. This is something we unfortunately see every day,” he said. “Apple is not only a competitor, but it also sets the rules of the market.”

Former Apple exec says apps are afraid to speak out

This market is the App Store. Apple is its guardian. Many app developers, VanMeter said, are betting that it’s too risky to speak out against them, fearing possible retaliation that could impact their status on the App Store.

“People are afraid of being kicked out of the App Store because they say or do the wrong thing,” Shoemaker said.

Some companies have fought back and sued Apple, but Shoemaker said the most common strategy is to say nothing at all. The Sherlocked app often pivots to another service, or even ceases operations altogether, he said.

“Third-party companies don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them because they’re the only method, for most, to install an app on your device,” Shoemaker said.

Apple has become a tech titan thanks to billions of dollars of research and development, but it has also benefited from ideas inspired by other companies’ products and services.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said: “We have always been ashamed of stealing good ideas. »

Apple did not respond to a request for comment, but the company has previously said it welcomes healthy competition and that direct confrontation improves services for everyone.

Apple’s outreach seen as ‘kiss of death’

John Gruber, the technical editor behind the blog Bold Fireball who has covered Apple for more than two decades and often defends the company, said Apple is just being cutthroat.

“The truth is that Apple, like any successful company, plays hardball,” Gruber said.

And it’s not just Apple, he said.

Small companies with smart, popular ideas always risk having their service copied by a larger tech company.

“This is exactly how the software industry works, historically,” Gruber said.

Some developers of small apps even fear Apple’s intervention since medical technology company Masimo’s experiment came to light in a patent dispute.

Masimo claims that Apple has held meetings with them about possibly integrating Masimo’s pulse reading technology into iPhones. When talks failed, Apple hired two Masimo executives and introduced a service that Masimo claimed illegally duplicated its technology. Apple denies it.

Aspiring Apple partners cited the Masimo experience as a warning.

“When Apple is interested in a company,” said Joe Kiani, chief executive of Masimo. the wall street journal“It’s the kiss of death.”

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