In January 2019, Kosta Eleftheriou had each cause to consider Apple was about to make a deal, his lawsuit alleges. Apple’s head of keyboards beloved his FlickType keyboard app for the Apple Watch, gushing over how few errors it made. “Apple should buy this from you,” the person exclaimed, saying it “could be a key feature for the watch.” He demoed it for the Apple Watch crew on January twenty fourth, the place a senior engineer allegedly gushed too.

That night, Eleftheriou obtained a message from Apple, however not the one he anticipated. In the midst of one afternoon, the corporate had seemingly determined that Apple Watch keyboards have been towards the principles. “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.

This Tuesday, Apple revealed its personal swipe keyboard app alongside the brand new Apple Watch Collection 7.

Eleftheriou had been Sherlocked.

He’s removed from the primary. Apple has an extended historical past of seeking to its personal app builders for inspiration, copying their concepts, and integrating them into its personal working programs without spending a dime. (It’s referred to as “Sherlocking” as a result of Apple famously copied a number of options from the third-party Watson app over to its Sherlock desktop search device in 2002; listed below are some more moderen examples.)

However this isn’t your typical case of whether or not a developer ought to be entitled to their earnings or whether or not customers deserve the performance without spending a dime — and never simply because Apple’s making users pay for a new Watch to get it. When Apple blocked his app two years in the past and continued to tussle with him over updates, the corporate made an enemy of Eleftheriou. He’s turn into one in every of Apple’s most vocal critics, growing a status as a rip-off hunter. He frequently and successfully factors out that Apple is horrible at protecting out frauds which bilk abnormal customers out of outrageous sums of cash.

In March, he filed a lawsuit towards the corporate over his app, alleging that the corporate continued to reject and maintain up his Apple Watch keyboard for months in an try and drive him to promote it to Apple for affordable. “Evidently, Apple thought Plaintiff would simply give up and sell its application to Apple at a discount,” the criticism reads.

Right here’s the half the place you may be pondering: “Wait, didn’t Apple ban every keyboard app for the Apple Watch back in 2019?” or “Didn’t Eleftheriou just tweet that rejection message and say ‘see you in court’ a couple days ago?”

The timeline’s a bit complicated, it’s true.

Sure, Eleftheriou filed his go well with almost six full months earlier than the Apple Watch Collection 7 announcement. It’s not clear what affect the Sherlocking may need on the go well with, and he gained’t say. His legal professionals are advising him towards saying an excessive amount of to journalists.

However no, Apple didn’t truly reject each Apple Watch keyboard app in 2019 — Eleftheriou believes his app was singled out for this therapy. Shift Keyboard had already arrived in February 2019, and even accomplice apps that included Eleftheriou’s keyboard tech (the criticism names Nano for Reddit, Chirp for Twitter and Lens for Instagram) allegedly made it via.

Apple tells The Verge it modified its thoughts over time. Initially, the corporate didn’t suppose it was applicable for a keyboard to take up everything of the Apple Watch’s small display screen, however determined in a different way in 2019 after it noticed the potential and says it’s inspired Apple Watch keyboards ever since. The corporate principally admits that eradicating Eleftheriou’s app was a mistake, and claims it shortly corrected the difficulty.

However Eleftheriou disputes that final level, saying it took a yr of appeals and resubmissions to get his keyboard again onto the shop. “From [January 2019] on, I was simultaneously discussing a FlickType acquisition with them, while also being rejected,” he tells me. And Apple initially made it appear like these appeals failed, too. “The App Review Board evaluated your app and determined that the original rejection feedback is valid. Please note that all appeal results are final,” reads Eleftheriou from a message he obtained in Could 2019.

Within the criticism, he alleges it wasn’t till January 2020, a yr after the shock takedown, that his Apple Watch keyboard extension was accepted. When FlickType for Apple Watch did lastly arrive, it turned the primary paid app in the complete retailer, pulled in $130,000 in its first month, he claims, and was named one of Apple’s top paid apps of 2020. That’s what he’s utilizing as grounds that he’s been financially harmed within the lawsuit.

Not that he’s essentially too nervous about funds proper now. “The FlickType income, yeah, I do expect it to eventually disappear given that the functionality will now be built-in,” he says, casually. “I don’t have a day job, but yeah this isn’t a big financial problem for me,” he provides once I ask. I ponder if he made good cash when he sold his keyboard company Fleksy to Pinterest roughly 5 years in the past. (Microsoft purchased keyboard app SwiftKey for roughly $250 million simply months earlier.)

Eleftheriou says FlickType has “mostly been a hobby,” however his different interest — looking down rip-off apps and calling out the App Retailer’s failings — stems from this complete state of affairs, too. He was fed up watching competing apps thrive, together with scams, after his personal had been blocked by App Overview.

And final month, Eleftheriou publicly gave up on his widespread iPhone keyboard extension for the blind after one too many rejections, resulting from what he describes as the most recent misunderstanding by Apple’s App Overview crew of how his app (and the corporate’s personal VoiceOver display screen reader expertise) are imagined to work.

“Our rejection history already spans more than FOURTY [sic] pages filled with repeated, unwarranted, & unreasonable rejections that serve to frustrate & delay rather than benefit end-users. And dealing with App Review isn’t just time-consuming. It’s also very emotionally draining,” he wrote on the time.

Apple successfully tells me this, too, was a mistake on its half. The corporate says it now realizes the keyboard does in reality adjust to its pointers, has defined that to Eleftheriou a number of occasions, and has repeatedly inspired him to submit the app once more. Apple would like that he doesn’t take it away.

However Eleftheriou says he’s had sufficient. Right here’s the assertion he despatched me:

I might be delighted to carry again the accessible FlickType Keyboard for iPhone when Apple lastly fixes their damaged Third-party keyboard APIs on iOS and permits builders to pretty compete with Apple’s personal keyboard. They need to additionally be certain that each single reviewer has fundamental VoiceOver coaching – we hold getting rejections resulting from reviewers not understanding and even understanding the best way to use VoiceOver.

I’ve already poured hundreds of hours growing my app, working round numerous keyboard API points and coping with app assessment, so I’m actually trying ahead to Apple’s enhancements and can promptly re-submit the FlickType VoiceOver keyboard when enough progress has been made in these areas.

As a separate observe, I’m additionally calling on Apple to permit builders to entry their very own rejection historical past. Apple presently hides this from builders and even refuses to supply it upon request. It’s unacceptable that Apple will ship us rejection messages that disappear shortly after, with no method to entry them ever once more.

He’s significantly irritated with how Apple’s personal keyboard has an unfair benefit because it doesn’t want to make use of its personal APIs, and the way these APIs are missing options that Apple publicly promised years ago.

Technically, Eleftheriou is the one making the iPhone keyboard extension disappear, not Apple. It nonetheless exists within the present model on the shop. He submitted a brand new model that removes the extension, one which’s presently pending with Apple’s App Overview.

For now, Eleftheriou goes to take his keyboard and go dwelling.

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