Apple was sued after the iPhone event

During its big keynote, Apple unveiled not only the iPhone 13 but also, among other things, the Apple Watch Series 7. But hardly official, it is now bringing trouble to the company.

The developer of a keyboard for the smartwatch has filed a lawsuit. Kosta Eleftheriou sees many parallels in the new keyboard of the Apple Watch Series 7 to an alternative that he himself developed a few years ago. The problem here is that Apple removed “FlickType” from the Apple Store before the Watch 7 was unveiled. The reason given by the manufacturer was that the keyboard did not meet the required “Human Interface Guidelines” (HIG), only to release an almost identical solution for the Watch Series 7 a short time later. So is Apple using double standards? Yes, Eleftheriou is certain. He has now filed a lawsuit against Apple because of his keyboard.

Why a keyboard brought Apple a lawsuit

Eleftheriou sees Apple’s actions as a violation of competition. Other developers have also complained about similar things in the past. “FlickType” is just one of several keyboard apps Eleftheriou has developed since 2009. He often used his father as a role model, who requires special input methods due to a visual impairment. This resulted in solutions that were intended to make input easier on various devices. Some of them were so well received that they were bought up by companies such as Google and Pinterest.

Keyboard of the Apple Watch Series 7
With the Watch 7, Apple also shows a new keyboard Photo: Apple

Starting in 2017, Eleftheriou worked on a keyboard solution specifically for the Apple Watch. “FlickType” was created and was initially available for the iPhone in 2018. When Apple presented the Watch 4 with a larger display and faster processor in the fall of the same year, the developer also brought “FlickType” to the smartwatch. However, Apple only allowed the use of the keyboard under certain conditions. For example, users had to start the app first to be able to reply to a text message with the third-party solution. Because of these restrictions from Apple, Eleftheriou hoped Apple would adopt the app. So in January 2019, he met with Randy Marsden, Apple’s input solutions manager, who was apparently enthusiastic about “FlickType.”

Developer sues Apple for unfair competition

Eleftheriou then optimized his keyboard to make it attractive not only to people with vision impairments, but also to the general public. But Apple reacted differently than expected. The company only included the new version of the app in the App Store after more than a year. But then “FlickType” became a great success. However, the app also quickly attracted imitators. The original app, on the other hand, was punished by them with false ratings to push their own copies, according to Eleftheriou. The developer saw Apple as partly to blame in what happened. He accused the company that the presence of fraudulent apps and fake reviews would be in stark contrast to Apple’s marketing. After all, he said, the App Store boasts of being a safe and monitored place for apps and developers.

“Despite having tremendous resources and technological expertise, Apple intentionally fails to police these cheaters, costing honest developers millions and perhaps billions, while Apple continues to make huge profits for itself,” the lawsuit states.

The situation eventually culminated in the kicking out of the “FlickType” keyboard from the Apple App Store. A short time later, Apple then unveiled its own solution at the Sept. 14 keynote – with features that Eleftheriou and a host of users said were very reminiscent of “FlickType.” Eleftheriou has therefore since sued Apple for deleting his app. In the lawsuit, he refers to California’s Unfair Competition Law – the law against unfair competition.