Copycat apps are not new entrants to the app stores. They were there from the beginning of app history and still continue to enjoy their share (of success or slur?). Every successful app seems to be trailed by packs of replicas/copies.
What motivates copycats to come up with copied apps? Do they pose a real threat to the original app? Can anything be done to deal with it? Here are some common queries asked by genuine app entrepreneurs who toil hard to bring their original product to the market. Let’s have a look at these issues and possible remedies.
What Are Copycat Apps?
The dictionary meaning of ‘copycat’ applies here in the context of copycats in mobile applications also. Anything that copies, imitates, mimics, or follows the lead of another is known as copycats. Copycat apps are nothing but imitation apps that are known in other names such as clone apps/ fast follow apps/rip-off apps etc. They lack originality. They try to taste success by repeating or replicating a recent, well-known app.
What Motivates Copycats?
Some principal reasons that encourage copycats to come up with rip-off apps can be condensed into the following points.
1. To benefit from the second-mover advantage
Following the lead of the first mover actually helps copycats to enjoy some second-mover advantages. Notwithstanding the fact that they have entered the market a little late, they are at the beneficial side as their R&D and marketing costs are considerably less. This is done by creating a twisted and enhanced version of the original app by utilising the existing technology.
2. Replication as a safe bet
Copycats are tempted to enter the app market after learning a lot from the original innovator’s experience, who entered the market first. They also get some free insights on crucial app strategies by observing the experience of the previous appreneur. In other words, they are motivated by an app with tried-and-tested features, rather than experimenting with an uncertain idea.
3. Prospect of making improved product
Since copycats can dedicate its resources more on improving the existing app, chances are more to amass greater market share and traction. It means that they are not just copying the app, but derive inspiration from the app idea. The resulting possibly superior app will be adaptable for different uses, and hence can be a great success. Here we should take note that treating existing successful app as a reference is different from ripping off its core functionality and user interface.
4. To take advantage of geographically-biased launch
Impatience from the side of users helps fast-follow apps to get more traction. Some apps, (including the Pokémon GO) were initially launched only in some countries. The potential users located in the other side of the globe will be eagerly waiting to try their hands on the app. This propels the popping up of imitation apps to take advantage of the situation.
Example: Since Pokémon GO was only released in certain countries initially, it saw a copycat app named City Spirit Go in China. It managed to make some waves there with similar augmented reality (AR) technology and core gaming elements. Simiarly, before Pokémon GO made its way to Europe, Europe saw copycats managing to top the free apps chart on Apple’s App Store. The fake app was later removed from the app store for violating Apple’s developer guidelines on fake functionality. Source
5. To play on the first-movers’ dearth of localization knowledge
An app that is launched with insufficient integration of localization aspects will fail to please the local users. A focused effort to localize the text and features of app is essential in alluring a user to download the app in their device. Local app developers may treat it as a profitable opportunity to take advantage of the situation by carefully integrating localized elements.
Example: An app named SNOW made its appearance in South-Korea as a Snapchat-replica. It has acquired huge traction thanks to the integration of localized filters and stickers appealing to Asian markets. Source
Are Copycat Apps A Matter of Concern?
You have heard about copycat apps mainly because of their notoriety to outsmart the innovator and their talent to amass a major market share, at least in a few instances. Most of the popular apps are witnessing mushrooming growth of near-identical apps. Though the copying phenomenon is more prevalent in the case of game apps, it happens across all groups. If not tackled prudently, copycat apps are capable of blurring the thin line between an innovator and a copycat.
There are app makers who derive inspiration from different app ideas and add their own spin to it, to give it a bend of originality and new functionality. These types of apps that come donned with an attractive finish of innovation do not look like an obvious theft. They will also manage to appeal to some users. This is because these apps might be dealing with some issues that were left unaddressed by the original app. This might also end up in the creation of the best existing app in the market.
Apps that claim to have improvements that are not apparently discernible or experienceable are copycats. Real copycats do not put their energy or brain into improving the existing scenario. They just want to wallow in the glory of someone else’s hard work. They are just rip-off or duplicate apps in the literal sense. The situation of being fooled by someone who impudently lifts your app idea, (including the name, description and interface!) can be truly frustrating. You need to be really vigilant about the real copycats as they can ruin your success.
Remember that there is no need to spoil your health thinking about copycat apps. They are not going to do any harm if they are just copycats without any added innovative elements or enhancements.
How To Deal With Copycats?
You can take most copycats in stride by being cautious from the beginning stages of app ideation process. Taking a legal approach will give you peace of mind to go ahead with the app project. You can confidently invest your money and energy in improving your app rather than using them for chasing the copycats.
Legal Protection: If you are really concerned about others simply taking a new idea from you, or replicating your app once launched, patenting your app idea is one of the best options. You can use trademark and copyright protection also.
You can consult a professional app development company to develop the app safely without the fear of any idea theft. You need to take the help of an experienced patent attorney to help you to file your idea for patent purposes.
Make Your App As Innovative As Possible: Polish your innovative skills and make your app as innovative as possible. Don’t forget to put in great efforts to localize the content and features of your app. Do not lose sight of the problem your app is trying to resolve, and do it in the most efficient manner. Since you have first identified the problem and researched about the target audience, you are the best one to solve the problem. Take all measures to validate your idea before launching it to the public. This will help you not to unintentionally trespass on other existing ideas.
“5 Great Tips to Get Smart App Idea” will help you in polishing your skills to ideate useful apps.
Face Copycat Apps Positively
If you consider imitation as the genuine form of flattery, it is the best way to validate your app. It means that your app is replicated because many people have faith in your app. Hence, there is huge prospect of demand and success for it.
Remember that despite the existence of numerous copycat apps, sensible people prefer to use the original thanks to their quality and reputation. Give real value to your target audience and you can expect the same thing from them.
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