Stateside: Think the App Store's walled garden is safe? Think again
A reality check
Chicago-based Carter Dotson is a senior writer at 148Apps.com, which was recently acquired by PocketGamer.biz publisher Steel Media.
Recently, a series of 'fake' apps have made their way onto Google Play.
This is no new phenomenon for Google's store, but the content of these fake apps struck a particular nerve with many.
As MacWorld reported, someone had uploaded fake versions of Apple's suite of iWork and iLife apps to the marketplace.
Mockery and derision of Android quickly spread across Twitter, with folks pointing to the platform's open approval process, where anything that isn't detected as malware is basically let in after about 24 hours.
It's a process that allows for blatant violations like this to fly by unchecked, and thus illustrates the advantage to the App Store's walled garden approach: blatant violations won't sneak on to the store.
Well, that's only true in theory. The App Store is less safe for developers' property than it may immediately appear.
When things go wrong
The problem is that, despite Apple having to rubber-stamp every single app that comes through - and the long waits for approval that results - mistakes still happen.
And because the App Store has a reputation for being 'safer' than Google Play does because of this process, the assumption comes in that it should be easy to figure out what's allowable and what isn't.
Well, in reality there have been several high-profile cases of apps that shouldn't have got through getting through - and not just the periodical tethering app that sneaks through, but actual blatant copyright violations that feel like they should have been shot down on sight.
The App Store approval team is two things: one, they're prone to human error. And two, they're comprised of a group of individuals who may be of varying quality, or even opinions, when it comes to apps.
For instance, Micro Miners was only approved for sale after an appeal tossed out the initial judgement - one Apple made based on what it described as "low-res graphics".
Likewise, the appearance of an unofficial Pokemon Yellow game on the App Store went unchecked for some time. Here's an app that seemed like an obvious fake, had many reports of crashes, yet still managed to get through Apple's approval radar.
Obviously, the failures are more high-profile than the ones that Apple catches, but the process was designed to weed out these obvious fakes, and it's clearly not perfect.
But it's not just the obvious cases that get through.
But here's the kicker: Apple featured the clone in its New & Noteworthy section on the App Store.
Even cases that seem illegitimate may actually be legal: a free Unity loops pack serves as the theme music for two entirely different App Store games, Blast Soccer and Block Invader.
Clones are still an issue
Cases where the legality of an app is somewhat dubious are, in fact, still commonplace.
On the flip side, Apple still lets one or two tethering apps through the net every year as well - apps that break Apple's own rules. Still, they manage to sneak past.
Developers can't just sit back and assume that Apple's walled garden will catch everything. Those concerned that their apps may be copied need to be proactive and monitor the App Store, because sneaking past Apple is easier than it may seem.
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