A lawsuit by app developer Kosta Eleftheriou is claiming that Apple has copied his Apple Watch keyboard app. This happened after Apple’s head of keyboards “gushed over” his app, saying that the company “should buy it”. Eleftheriou also posted that Apple removed his own keyboard app from the App Store.
In 24 January 2019, Eleftheriou demoed FlickType—his Watch keyboard app—for the Apple Watch team. Apparently, Apple’s head of keyboards “loved his app”, and even “gushed over how few mistakes it made”. He added that Apple “should buy this” from you the developer and said it “could be a key feature for the watch”.
FlickType was created for the Apple Watch to make typing “easier, faster and more comfortable than ever, regardless of visual ability or screen size”. It’s website claimed that the app lets users type “a whole three to four times faster compared to the standard keyboard, VoiceOver typing, or even dictation after edits” on a Watch.
However, Eleftheriou received a message from Apple on the same evening with bad news. 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.
More recently during the company’s new keynote, Apple revealed its own swipe keyboard app alongside the new Apple Watch Series 7. If you compare the two keyboards, they look pretty similar—with the same concepts and even the additions of emojis.
This new reveal by Apple resulted in a tweet by Eleftheriou, where he added a screenshot of the alleged letter Apple sent him regarding FlickType. He tagged the company, saying that he will see them in court.
According to the developer, he said that he has already filed a lawsuit against Apple in mid-March regarding the removal of his app from the App Store. Eleftheriou was said to have allegedly used fake App Store reviews to boost downloads.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Old school Macs had a tool called Sherlock which allowed users to search for files and contacts through a built-in search feature. When another company built a tool named Watson—which had way more internet functionality than Sherlock—because extremely popular, Apple released Mac OS X 10.2 with “Sherlock 3”.
After incorporating all these features, people no longer had much reason to buy Watson. This helped coin the term “Sherlocked”—as it happens a lot with many other third party companies.
“I’ve already poured thousands of hours developing my app, working around countless keyboard API issues and dealing with app review, so I’m really looking forward to Apple’s improvements and will promptly re-submit the FlickType VoiceOver keyboard when sufficient progress has been made in these areas. As a separate note, I’m also calling on Apple to allow developers to access their own rejection history. Apple currently hides this from developers and even refuses to provide it upon request. It’s unacceptable that Apple will send us rejection messages that disappear shortly after, with no way to access them ever again,” said Eleftheriou in a statement.
You can currently still download FlickType, but it’s not the latest version which has been removed by Apple. Eleftheriou has already submitted a new version of the app, but it’s currently pending with Apple’s App Review.
The developer made USD 130,000 in the first month for the keyboard. After that, there are other scam or copycat apps popping up on AppStore and he accuses Apple for not taking action to stop fraudsters.