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FlickType keyboard developer sues Apple over theft of Apple Watch keyboard idea, allegedly anti-competitive behavior


At the Apple Watch Series 7 launch event on September 14, Apple proudly unveiled “a new QWERTY keyboard (which allows you to tap or slide from letter to letter”. It turned out that Apple directly replicated the FlickType keyboard for the Apple Watch and disrupted FlickType on the App Store. An outraged app developer dragged Apple to court.

FlickType has allowed Apple Watch users to write directly from the carrying screen. Developer Costa Eleftheriou said that the application was praised by Apple and presented at the headquarters of Apple in 2019. He created several applications for blind and partially sighted people so that they could write on smartphones even without looking at the screen. The apps analyzed the fingertip location to predict what the user was trying to type.

Through a review of the App Store, Apple sent an email to the developer in 2019 stating that FlickType Keyboard version 4.3 is being removed from the App Store because it does not comply with the guidelines for reviewing the App Store.

At the time Eleftheriou didn’t know, Apple probably started replicating the app for then developing the Apple Watch Series 7. The app is now available for use on the Apple Watch, but now that Apple is offering a first-party equivalent, users are unlikely to look for the Eleftheriou app. Moreover, it seems that Apple committed a daily robbery here, keeping FlickType out of the App Store for about a year. FlickType developer is also suing Apple for fraud.

Possible lawsuit and its allegations

Eleftheriou’s lawsuit claims that “Apple removed the roadblock after the blockade, which did not make sense,” in order to keep the technology off the App Store for about a year.
When the app was finally allowed on the App Store, they were undermined by “copied and fraudulent apps” that were amplified by fake reviews.

FlickType’s lawsuit says Apple justifies its monopoly by arguing that it needs to protect its users and developers from unscrupulous behavior and ensure a fair competitive market to the benefit of both. “However,“ indeed, Apple is turning a blind eye to the sheer fraud and exploitation for easier profit, ”the lawsuit states.

The story of FlickType and why Eleftheriou is upset

U a satirical tweet, Eleftheriou said, “Because Apple really loves California as much as I do,” and went on to link to the Wikipedia page on California competition law. Interestingly, the Epic v. Apple verdict also finds Apple guilty of violating this law.

According to the lawsuit, Apple tried to get Eleftheriou’s first app called BlindType, but sold it to Google in 2010. In April 2018, FlickType was launched for the iPhone, and in the fall of that year, Apple approved an update that added Apple Watch compatibility. However, Apple has limited the way FlickType can be used, making it unnecessarily bulky for the end user.

Eleftheriou mentioned that Randy Marsden, the founder of Swype, felt that Apple should buy FlickType and make it a key Apple Watch feature. Eleftheriou then updated the app to suit a wider audience, and Apple declined the update (previously mentioned version 4.3) claiming that Apple Watch keyboards were not allowed, even though other such Apple Watch apps were already on the App Store. Apple finally released FlickType on the App Store in January 2020.

In Summary

“Despite huge resources and technological knowledge, Apple deliberately fails to deceive police officers, which has cost honest developers millions, and perhaps billions, while Apple continues to raise large revenues for itself (sic),” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit was filed in March 2021, and the Apple Watch Series 7 launch event seems to confirm suspicions as to why Apple pushed the great app – because it cloned FlickType to become the star of the new Apple Watch 7 Series.

Eagle Eyes would notice that the text on the Apple Watch Series 7 read “copy that” when the new first-page keyboard was demonstrated. Do you think it was a deliberate hit on FlickType? Share your thoughts with us below.

Update: Apple Statement

Apple said AppleInsider that updating FlickType to version 3.4 was allowed on the App Store in 2020 after Eleftheriou explained the accessibility features of the App Store application review team. Later in 2019, Apple says it reworked the App Store’s guidelines to enable keyboard applications for the Apple Watch since the Apple Watch Series 4 had a larger screen.

Apple also said that although there were several apps for the Apple Watch keyboard in the App Store 2020, FlickType was highlighted in the “Best Apps 2020” promotion on the App Store.

Apple said it now welcomes Eleftherio to resubmit updates for FlickType. Following his explanation, the company believes that FlickType accessibility keyboard updates are in line with the App Store rules.

[Via Washington Post]





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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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