The developer behind FlickType, an Apple Watch keyboard, alleges the company used its power over the App Store to block its progress
Kosta Eleftheriou had the understanding to believe Apple was about to make a deal, his lawsuit alleges. Apple’s head of keyboards loved his FlickType keyboard app for the Apple Watch, gushing over how few mistakes it made. “Apple should buy this from you,” the man exclaimed, saying it “could be a key feature for the watch.” He demoed it for the Apple Watch team on January 24th, where a senior engineer allegedly gushed too.
That evening, Eleftheriou received a message from Apple, but not the one he expected. In the course of one afternoon, the company had seemingly decided that Apple Watch keyboards were against the rules. “Specifically, the app is a keyboard for Apple Watch. For this reason, your app will be removed from sale on the App Store at this time,” Apple wrote.
This Tuesday, Apple revealed its own swipe keyboard app alongside the new Apple Watch Series 7.
Eleftheriou had been Sherlocked. (term=sherlocked. to have developed a product and just started shipping it, only to have Apple come along and provide exactly the same functionality in a system update.)
— Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) September 14, 2021
Being based in California, Apple’s move against FlickType could be in direct violation of the state’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), which is broadly written but forbids unfair business acts and allows the court to order injunctions to prevent unfair competition. Apple doesn’t allow developers to offer their apps outside the App Store, meaning they have to follow its rules and are always at its mercy.
Changing tides — Developers used to be much more submissive towards Apple for creating slick tools and a safe marketplace for selling apps. But now they’ve become angered over Apple’s strict, archaic system of rules, and the 15-30 per cent tax it charges on in-app sales.
The company isn’t the small, feisty upstart it was once, but a $2.5 trillion behemoth that brings in most of its cash revuenes.
Developers cannot as easily swallow the costs Apple charges and are always at risk of losing their business, as in the case of FlickType.
Apple’s demands no longer feel fair or reasonable, and critics say that its defence that it’s ensuring a safe environment for consumers is cover for it to continue making billions off the App Store. It’s believed Apple generates more than $20 billion in revenue from the App Store each year.