Kevin Archer, the creator of the two-factor authentication (2FA) app ‘Authenticator’ by 2Stable, recently found not one but two imitations of his app (down to the app description and website design) on the App Store that are scamming users out of up to $335 USD/year through recurring weekly subscriptions (via 9to5Mac).
The apps in question are blatant copies of Archer’s Authenticator app on the surface but don’t actually provide the same functionalities (such as Apple Watch and Widget support).
The copycat apps ask users to submit reviews before they’ve even had a chance to actually use the app (which is against Apple’s App Stores Guidelines), and more importantly, charge users an auto-renewing weekly subscription of $3.99 USD. Not only is that subscription fee irrationally high, but the apps don’t even provide any real value or functionality in exchange for it.
Last month, app developer, researcher, and self-described “professional App Store critic” Kosta Eleftheriou exposed another app that used a similar auto-renewing subscription model to swindle Apple’s customers out of an estimated $13 million USD.
— Kevin Archer (@IM_Kevin_Archer) February 19, 2022
A quick look at other apps from the same developer revealed more instances of the same weekly subscriptions with unjustifiably high prices. According to Archer, the same imitation app was submitted to the App Store under two different developer accounts with different logos and colour schemes.
“I really don’t understand how these apps pass the App Store review with features that don’t work, with a copied design, with forcing users to review their app before even seeing it, and of course with a weekly subscription,” Archer said in a tweet.
Developers like Archer can’t help but notice the duality of Apple’s App Store review process — well-meaning developers can have their apps rejected for the silliest of reasons, while cheap copycat apps that provide little to no actual functionality and blatantly overcharge unwitting users not only make it through but are often featured in App Store charts.
Scam apps on the App Store have been making millions right under Apple’s nose. Last October, the iPhone maker brought the ‘Report a Problem’ option back to the App Store to help fight scams.
However, the fact that apps that provide little to no value to users, clearly break App Store Guidelines, and/or include irregularly high-priced subscriptions make it through in the first place indicates that Apple’s review process is in need of a significant overhaul.