Software piracy. It’s a bad thing, it’s cost Android a lot in apps that never make it there, and it’s a fairly large problem on iOS too. A big enough problem, in fact, that the developer of the Oxford Deluxe dictionary app – a $55 app mind you – decided to do something about it. Exactly what, I don’t know, but here’s what happened to me just now:
I sat down to grade papers for an English class, and loaded up the dictionary app I’ve been using for ages to check a word. I got asked for access to my Twitter account, declined, and was thrown out of the app. Again and again. OK, I thought, apparently some update means the app now requires access – nothing new, apps need location access to access photos, and I don’t plan on sharing any words on Twitter anyways, so why not. I checked my word, went back to grading.
A few minutes later, I get a Twitter notification email about someone replying to my tweet. What tweet? This one:
How about we all stop using pirated iOS apps? I promise to stop. I really will. #softwarepirateconfession
Only problem was, I never sent it. It didn’t take me long to figure out what had happened, and I started looking around a bit. Turns out it’s happening all over the place. Just check the tag.
So are we all software pirates? No. I still have the receipt email from August 18, 2010, to prove that I paid the $50 for this app, as I do with all my apps. I have Installous, a jailbreak app for installing pirated apps, installed, but have only ever used it once: When Scanner Pro, which I also legally own, introduced a bug in the app that made the app stop working completely on my device. Installous lets you browse a list of available pirated versions of the app, which also means you can use it to go back to an older version of an app you legally own. This is otherwise impossible in iOS, unlike on Android.
I don’t know if there’s a relation there, but I assume so. If I were to guess, I assume the developer got tired of having the $50 app stolen, included a check for Installous, and simply forgot to actually add a method to see if the users had used it for the app in question. Whoops?
There’s a new update out for this app, dated November 1. It says to “Update now! Very important,” but gives no reason. This is a 340MB app; it’s not something I update for no reason. Well, I found out the reason, now didn’t I!
You don’t accidentally include a feature that asks for Twitter access and then use that access to accuse the owner of software piracy. That’s put in there deliberately, and it’s just the trigger that’s off. It doesn’t matter. This is illegal. I take this very seriously, especially because I paid 50 freaking dollars for this app, and I intend to pursue the matter. All previous mentions of this app on this site have been removed. The review has been removed, the app is no longer in my education guide, etc. There are certain things one has to have zero tolerance for, and this is one of them. I also intend to submit a complaint to Apple and hopefully get this idiot of a developer banned from the app store for good. I also encourage everyone to boycott the developer, Enfour, inc.
Edit: A couple of elaborations/updates:
I gave the app permission to access my Twitter account because being asked for weird permissions is nothing new, especially when 2/3 of your devices run Android. Android apps need internet access for license checks and displaying ads, they need camera access to use the LED, launchers need access to contacts because they include a feature to add direct call shortcuts to the home screen, and so on. This is a $50 app that I’ve owned and used for two years. I had absolutely no reason to expect that it had malicious intents. If I stopped allowing apps access to features like that because I didn’t immediately see the reason, I wouldn’t have many apps left. A free wallpaper app that was released two days ago on Google Play and has 500 negative reviews? Sure, it’s bad. A two-year-old $50 app that has gone through the Apple approval process dozens of times over those years? You wouldn’t think so.
As for legality, one thing is giving the app access to the Twitter account. The phrasing of the tweet, i.e. writing it in first person “I”, is impersonation. Nothing less. When I noticed the tweet, I obviously deleted it and revoked access to Twitter from within Twitter immediately. It seems like this only posts once, though.
When it comes to using Installous, well, I did it after a less than constructive conversation with the developer of Scanner Pro. I use that app a lot, I write about it on this site all the time, and the app just outright broke with an update a couple of months ago. I was first told they didn’t have a device with iOS 5.0.1 to test for the bug on, then when I asked for the .ipa file (iOS app files) to sideload an older version and not bother them about the bug anymore, I was told that jailbreaking the iPad was the cause of the bug to begin with. They later fixed the bug, and I don’t know how they ended up doing that after all. I always buy the paid version of an app; I don’t even think I have a free app installed if there’s a paid version of it – heck, I often don’t even include links to ad-supported versions of apps in articles I write if there are paid versions, as I think developers should be paid for their work. That is why this screw up pisses me off so much.