2017-11-30 The app has been removed from the App Store. For posterity, here’s the CloudApp for iMobile entry on AppShopper.
2017-11-29 Updated with the full “feature list” from the home screen
While browsing for an iOS-native service like Droplr or CloudApp, I came across and downloaded the “free” app CloudApp for iMobile – Cloud Drive App Sync Data. Astoundingly, this app trades on the reputations of both iCloud and CloudApp to scam users into paying $99/month for iCloud services.
Here’s a screenshot of the app’s paywall/feature description screen:
The Setup Instructions info link goes to Apple’s own iCloud support site. And in case it’s hard to read, the app basically lists iCloud’s services as its list of features.1
But hey, it’s cheap! Only $99/month!
I nearly fell prey to the scam myself: while screenshotting the app, I accidentally subscribed (because of the way TouchID is integrated into the home button – and the home button is part of taking screenshots):
Fortunately, I know how to cancel iTunes subscriptions, but I’m sure a lot of the app’s users don’t.
I reported the app to Apple on November 26, but as of writing this (three days later) the app is still live in the App Store. Perhaps this helpful review of the App Store Review Guidelines will help inform whether this app is legitimate, according to the current rules:
1.1.6 False information and features, including inaccurate device data or trick/joke functionality, such as fake location trackers.
CloudApp for iMobile purports to sell a clone of all iCloud services, including Find my Friends. As far as I can tell, it does not actually provide these services.
1.1.7 App Store Reviews: Use the provided API to prompt users to review your app; this functionality allows customers to provide an App Store rating and review without the inconvenience of leaving your app, and we will disallow custom review prompts.
I didn’t personally experience the app rating prompt, but according to published reviews, the app requires users to give it a five-star rating to get full access to the app. Here are a couple examples:
1.5 Developer information: People need to know how to reach you with questions and support issues. Make sure your Support URL includes an easy way to reach you. Failure to include accurate and up-to-date contact information not only frustrates customers, but may violate the law in some countries
CloudApp for iMobile helpfully provides two support links:
First, in the App Store description, the app’s official support site is that of the real CloudApp, which conveniently includes real support information and a way to get in touch with real humans. (I can only wonder what these humans think about support requests coming from CloudApp for iMobile users – and their $99/month subscription charges.)
But in the app itself, the “info” button goes to Apple’s own iCloud support site.
2.3 Accurate Metadata
Customers should know what they’re getting when they download or buy your app, so make sure your app description, screenshots, and previews accurately reflect the app’s core experience and remember to keep them up-to-date with new versions.
The app states “Subscriptions are from $4.99 USD Monthly or $9.99 USD Yearly with 3 days free trial.” In a world where everything is “fake news”, I don’t want to go so far as to call this a “lie”, but turning $9.99/year into $99/month might raise a few eyebrows.
2.3.1 Don’t include any hidden or undocumented features in your app; your app’s functionality should be clear to end-users and App Review.
We may have a winner: the app’s description states:
¬ Sync Data your clouds [sic] service files[sic]: Dropbox…. [sic]
¬ Import file [sic] by more ways: internet, clouds [sic] downloads… [sic]
…I’m not sure what this means, but it sounds pretty accurate.
2.3.2 If your app includes in-app purchases, make sure your app description, screenshots, and previews clearly indicate whether any featured items, levels, subscriptions, etc. require additional purchases.
You can’t actually do anything in the app without subscribing for the $99/month plan. This doesn’t seem to be stated anywhere.
2.3.7 Choose a unique app name, assign keywords that accurately describe your app, and don’t try to pack any of your metadata with trademarked terms, popular app names, or other irrelevant phrases just to game the system. App names… should not include prices, terms, or descriptions that are not the name of the app. App subtitles are a great way to provide additional context for your app; they must follow our standard metadata rules and should not include inappropriate content, reference other apps, or make unverifiable product claims.
CloudApp is a preexisting service run by the good folks at cloudapp.com, not Tran Ngoc Lam, so that may be an issue.
Also, while I’m guessing Apple doesn’t love the use of “iMobile” since it sounds confusingly similar to Apple’s own cloud services, the iMobile trademark is actually owned by TUNGTZU INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. CORPORATION TAIWAN. Maybe they need to take it up with Apple?
…And while pricing is up to you, we won’t distribute apps and in-app purchase items that are clear rip-offs. We’ll reject expensive apps that try to cheat users with irrationally high prices.
At $99/mo or $1188/year, if you subscribe to CloudApp for iMobile and buy an iPhone X – and use them both for two years – CloudApp will be more expensive by a factor of two.
3.1.2(a) Permissible uses:
Apps must not force users to rate the app, review the app, download other apps, or other similar actions in order to access functionality, content, or use of the app.
YHWHs child writes in the review entitled “Confused ★★★★★”:
“Tells you you have to give a 5star rating in order to use it to see if its worth any time I just needed basic cloud and this over came it???”
If this doesn’t constitute forcing users to rate the app, maybe the standard requires something more substantive, like threatening bodily harm to your relatives?
3.1.2(c) Subscription Information: Before asking a customer to subscribe, you should clearly describe what the user will get for the price. How many issues per month? How much cloud storage? What kind of access to your service? Also ensure you clearly communicate the requirements described in Schedule 2 of your agreement in Agreements, Tax, and Banking.
Prior to upgrading, the app describes itself with features like “Increase memory for your Cloud”, “Find your iOS device, Apple Watch, or Mac”, and “Find your friends and family”. Although the app does none of these things, when prompted to subscribe to “UPGRADE PREMIUM MONTHLY” I realize that, deep in my heart, I do want to be premium. Is that enough?
(ii) Monetizing built-in capabilities provided by the hardware or operating system, such as Push Notifications, the camera, or the gyroscope; or Apple services, such as Apple Music access or iCloud storage.
“Keep all your files safely stored in iCloud” just might be construed to be “monetizing built-in capabilities”.
4.2.5 Apps that are primarily iCloud and iCloud Drive file managers need to include additional app functionality to be approved.
There’s not much to do in the app besides browsing your files. But maybe the hefty Premium fee scratches the “shopping itch” that we all have, freeing us to do more productive things with our time than wandering around the local Tiffany & Co.
5.2.1 Generally: Don’t use protected third party material such as trademarks, copyrighted works, or patented ideas in your app without permission, and don’t include misleading, false, or copycat representations, names, or metadata in your app bundle or developer name. Apps should be submitted by the person or legal entity that owns or has licensed the intellectual property and other relevant rights and is responsible for offering any services provided by the app.
Pretty sure there’s something in here about purporting to sell iCloud services.
I write this for two reasons: one, I was genuinely curious how many App Store Review Guidelines one can flagrantly violate while flying under the radar.
The answer is thirteen.
In the case of CloudApp for iMobile, Apple should:
Refund all in-app purchases ever made in CloudApp for iMobile to the unwitting customers who shelled out for this scam.
Personally apologize to said customers.
Ban this developer.
The bigger reason for writing this is that I am genuinely frustrated.
It’s maddening that garbage like this gets through the App Store review process when legitimate developers providing truly useful services are stymied all the time.
I’ve been on the blunt end of App Review rejections a number of times. Sometimes the rejections were useful and helped us provide a more useful, refined experience; other times we ran afoul of a nitpicked interpretation of a single minor guideline (in one case, requiring us to simply remove a truthful, non-trademark-infringing phrase from an app description – a change that made it harder for users to understand the service we provided).
A better App Store ecosystem is good for everyone. Here’s a good place to start: reconfigure the app review process to let good apps through, and protect users from the bad ones.
Right now it seems like the opposite is happening.
p.s. If you have any good suggestions for a Droplr/CloudApp-like service for iOS, I’m all ears. In the meantime I may just Workflow it with Dropbox.
- Here’s the full list:
¬Backup Contact, Backup iCloud.
¬Increase Memory for your Cloud.
¬Download & Upload Data to iCloud
¬Keep your photos up to date
¬Keep all your files safely stored in iCloud
¬Share music, books, apps, and more with your family
¬Find your iOS device, Apple Watch, or Mac
¬Find your friends and family
¬Pages, Numbers, and Keynote
¬Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Notes, and Reminders
¬Music, apps, and iBooks