Apr 30

What’s Bad In Making A Copycat App

Clone, imitation, copycat, rip-off. There are many names for this phenomenon, which is the most obvious solution by lack of ideas. But what’s worse, it is often applied in unoriginal attempts of chasing popular trends and software products.

Nowhere is it obvious and compelling as in the mobile game category. In fact, there are very similar apps in every category, but it’s the games, such as 2048, Angry Birds, and Temple Run, that come to mind first. The bad in making a copycat is bad not only for their developers and/or owners, but for other people as well. Let’s see why.

Imitation Has No Identity

Software owners and developers can implement other apps’ distinct features as a part of their own products. Their products may have a completely different philosophy and succeed. But a copycat by itself won’t bring them any success. It will simply work for the app that got cloned. Everybody prefers originals, no matter how good a copycat is. Ever since Instagram became so popular, there have been lots of related photo/video apps which were all named ‘Insta-this’ and ‘That-gram’. It all even went that far so that stores were rejecting such apps. But no matter what the name of the clone is, you’d still think of Instagram, wouldn’t you?

Bigger Chances Of Copyright Infringements

Not everyone is like Apple and sues for this and that – that’s why we have so many app clones. But Apple is Apple, and their control filters out much litter in apps, and struggles with infringements and use of unauthorized content. It is also easy for developers to contact and report such violations at both App Store and Google Play. They can be unintentional but it’s always a matter of proper revision.

Flooding Copycats Kill Off The Monetization

Over the last months you could watch clones of the infamous Flappy Bird in the tops of app stores. It has been even worse with various websites where ‘New Releases’ are daily renewed – almost every day there was yet another clone – a useless waste of time and efforts. What was interesting, occasionally these clones were paid ones, with the usual $0.99 fee, or in-app purchases with more game levels.

However, while people have their freedom of choice and initial unwillingness to pay for apps, they will definitely scroll further for a free similar game, and in the case of Flappy Bird they wouldn’t have any problems with that.

There can be another scenario – a game gets cloned simply for placing ads. But the result will be the same: ad haters, which are many among us, will still look for ad-free alternatives – and will find them.

Rip-offs Are Generally Disliked, If Not Hated

There are so many ways to take an idea and make it your own, yet still this ‘attack of the clones’ has no end. What do they receive? One/two-star ratings, bad reviews, and often negative media responses, being treated like some kind of spam. Which they are in most cases. Rip-offs are generally hated by creators of the originals, who may even lose revenues, all owing to low-quality clones.

Not all clones are necessarily worse. For example, Apple filters out the really bad stuff, because they’d never compromise on customer satisfaction. Nevertheless App Store still lets clones in, because more apps mean more revenues for the company. Yet the truth remains – imitations are acceptable by some mobile users, but not much more than that.

While cloning an app with a slight change that doesn’t make any difference, is truly bad, borrowing isn’t – to a certain extent. Nobody is able to suggest innovations matching the real state of things, with a strong business idea or distinct philosophy behind it. Any creative work is almost always built upon something that has been before – just remember the idea of iPod, a portable music player that became a market-changer. Or the iPad – its concept wasn’t all that new in 2010, but it was correctly treated, as a perfect and highly portable device for content consumption.

An idea can be taken to another target audience. An idea can be enhanced in usability. An idea can have offline access, which it didn’t have before, and succeed. Finally, an idea can win by another way of monetization and better understanding of what users need and value.


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