The next time you hear of a cool app and jump straight on to the App Store to get it, make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for and check where it’s coming from.

That’s the advice of Marco Arment, developer of Instapaper for iPhone and iPad.

Writing on his personal blog, Marco notes the staggering number of applications playing on the name of successful apps or using similar keywords in order to con unwitting App Store customers into buying them.

Popular bird-launching game, Angry Birds, is one such successful application plagued by a host of pretenders that are found when searching the App Store for its title. Of the top ten search results, only four apps appear legitimate with the actual Angry Birds game and its Lite version making up two of these. Six of the top ten search results are made up of cheat apps and walkthroughs.

ESCAPP’s Angry Birds Cheats, for example, appears in the top five searches and uses a lookalike icon. At $0.99 (the same price as the full Angry Birds app) the application’s description reads “Wonderful and addictive cheats. Accept No Imitations”.

That should be no imitations other than the imitation of affiliation with an actual application and/or developer.

We’ve not downloaded Angry Birds Cheats, but with 432 one star reviews out of 487 and reviews entitled “Absolute Rubbish!!” and “Waste of time money and effort” we’re willing to gamble our reputation on this being a pretty poor app. Add to this that the developer, ESCAPP, doesn’t have a working website but a GoDaddy holding page instead, and the fraud is complete.

InTekOne, LLC is another app publisher working in a similar way but this time using a modified version of the Angry Birds icon for its Angry Birds Walkthrough app. Once again, its site does not appear when clicked in iTunes and it’s left up to the poor developer, who was presumably commissioned to create the app, to shoulder the blame.

Chillingo, the publisher of Angry Birds, is equally unhappy with these apps: “We are going to send a formal copyright infringement request to Apple about these apps soon,” said Joe Wee, Director of Chillingo.

Chillingo prefers to reward loyal gamers with hints and tips at no cost by providing walkthrough trailers on its Developers’ YouTube channels. That way, they get free, valid information directly from the source. Angry Birds’ developer Rovio provides official suggestions for Angry Birds here

So what can you do to avoid inadvertently downloading fake apps or “squatters” who use successful apps as a marketing tool? Unfortunately, not a lot. Of course, you’re free to contact Apple and let them know your thoughts and Marco Arment also lists ways developers can protect their intellectual property from such apps on his site here.

For the average consumer, however, it appears that vigilance is your only weapon. Find out the name of the developer, check their website and, most importantly, read the app’s reviews for consumer feedback before buying.

Neither ESCAPP nor InTekOne, LLC have responded to our contact regarding their applications at time of writing.

[ via Marco.org ]

Posted in: App Store Insiders, Blog

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