Windows Phone Store: The Clone Wars

The Windows Phone Store has seen its fair share of challenges over the years. We have seen cookie cutter or spam apps, misleading apps, update failures and issues with developer revenues all surface. While Microsoft has done a decent job of responding to these matters, one problem continues to plague the Store - cloned or copied apps.

It is not a new issue or one unique to the Windows Phone Store but one that Microsoft needs to get control of better.

Understand that when I refer to copied apps and games I am not talking about games with the same concept. We have a bazillion match-three games available in the Store with many sharing similar designs, but I don't consider them copies. The clones are those games or apps that simply lift the code from one title, slap on a new title and submit it for publication.

It isn't a problem unique to the Windows Phone Store or one that is new, but it seems to have gotten worse.

Windows Phone Store Top Free Games

We receive review requests from readers and developers, as well as what we stumble upon ourselves. Over the past few months, several of these requests have been for copied or fake games, which we pass on. If the original title is in the Windows Phone Store, we focus on that instead. I try to research the authenticity of these games, but I'm not perfect and now and then one slips through the cracks.

Even Microsoft fails to catch these clones once they sneak past the certification process. They will often be included in their top rated categories in the Windows Phone Store. A recent Windows Central roundup was based on the top free games in the Windows Phone Store. We noticed one obvious clone in the top listed games, but two were missed.

As we saw with the spam apps, these clones are sneaking into the Store more often these days. Most get caught and are unpublished but many stays in circulation for a good while.

What can be done?

If you run across a game or app in the Windows Phone Store, there is a link on the Store listing that will report a concern to Microsoft. The clones are not always easy to pick out of a crowd, but some stand out like a sore thumb. Some of the signs include:

  • Store title doesn't match the title on the app itself
  • Ad support is overly aggressive with ad banners covering key details and you see a combination of ad banners and full-screen ads
  • There is a vast number of reviews on the app or game but very few comments
  • Store description refers to a different title than one listed

Just keep in mind that these signs do not always mean a Windows Phone title is a copy. When I spot one, I search iTunes, Google Play and even our Store for originals. The original versions can jump off the screen at you while others are not as easy to find.

Windows Phone Store Reporting

Along with customer reporting potential clones, Microsoft needs to step things up during the certification process. I do not know if there needs to be less automation in the process or just a refinement of the process, but something needs to happen to reduce the number of these clones making it to Store shelves.

When we saw gobs of cookie cutter or spam apps appear, Microsoft tweaked the submission process and limited the daily submissions to address that issue. When we saw misleading apps that used false descriptions or keyword tags, again Microsoft tweaked the process to correct that issue. It should not be too difficult for Microsoft to adjust the certification process to look for the obvious signs of a cloned app and have a human take a closer look at things.

Whatever the method, Microsoft needs to step it up. I review hundreds of Windows Phone titles throughout the year and enjoy offering my opinion on things and giving these titles a little exposure. We will continue to screen these titles to avoid giving an unauthorized copy of an app this exposure and appreciate our readers helping hands in making sure everything is on the up and up.

I just hope Microsoft can find a way to keep these copies in check. These cloned apps' presence is not fair to our community or the developers who support this platform.

Additional Discussion in the Windows Central Forums

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.

56 Comments
  • Did anyone have send a feedback to add restart and turn off a phone ?
  • hi yesterday i sold L640 XL and after i set up 2x it getting restart...i thought it it was normal..then last night i read article about this issue
  • What cloned game is that???  FYI: restart goes by the name of Soft Reset for Windows Phone. If an App or setting needs a restart it will advise you it does and you can tap the dialog box to make it happen. Seems you now want to clone functions that already exist.
  • Facebook app still sucks.. Leave snapchat coming to wp alone... The fb app... I hate it.. First have a basic app of fb with all features and updated
  • I use it on the browser instead which is still awful. But it's better than the app, that just shows how bad the app is!
  • Can we report Facebook app to MS? It's not made by Facebook, so it's a copy, right? ;)
  • LOL! Nice one.
  • Yes we can for poor performance. Already did. Go ahead. Apply some pressure. -Off Topic
  • There has been an increase in fake apps since last 6 months..... Ram booster.. Game booster...battery booster..... Etc etc.. Can be seen now ... Which r fake
  • Yes.... They r fake apps ... Remove them
  • Report them ~
  • Wilder defense was clone of defense zone which is removed already. Only clone app I faced.
  • These booster apps are fake, they are not even required on WP since it does not need cleaning up like lagdroid does. On lagdroid you have to use du soured booster, memory cleaner etc everyday to keep the lag from coming back(it still lags anyway). A lot of people switching from lagdroid to WP don't know that doing such cleanups are not required on WP, hence they download these fake apps. I should know, my friends using androids use these junk apps which supposedly "clean" and "speedup" the phone.
  • It kinda sucks because I'm so sick of those stupid scrolling dots every second app I run. Could use a memory manager on this thing.
  • No, those apps are total BS even on Android. They take advantage of the stupid and the weak, just like the "download more RAM" websites and when iPhone users were told that they could charge their phone in the microwave. Android cleaning/booster apps are actually INCAPABLE of doing anything beneficial to a device", unless they need root access. As far as "lagdroid" goes, well I would say that's such an outdated insult it's funny, but the 2015 android flagships realistically do have shit performance. But that's more due to hardware than software (except for the s6, that one got a botched update) and would affect windows phones as well. You guys do NOT want an 810 powered Lumia. But the best (and often only) cure for performance issues on Android is a reboot. Even the WORST performance issues on android can be mitigated by a reboot as you're putting it on the charger for the night.
  • Aside from everything else that you've said wrong in your post, the only junk apps that exist in the Windows Store aren't the "clean" and "speedup" ones, there are still tons of official applications that aren't available from their developers on Windows Phone and there are tons of junk apps or web wrappers that show up in the results.  People could search for apps like these; Adobe Lightroom, Scribblenauts, Worms 3, Lego Marvel Superheros, Surgeon Simulartor. All of these apps(and tons more) have no official developer made port on the Windows Store, mostly just scams or cheats. There are tons of fake misleading apps or web wrappers on Windows Phone, stop blaming Android for all your shitty issues, especially when Android is the biggest thing that could help Windows Phone success *cough* Project Astoria *cough*.
  • LOL. I can run my M8 Droid forever and not need to clear things, or reboot. I certainly don't have lag on that machine. Now, you want to talk lag, my Lumia 830, resuming, resuming, resuming... Ya, you get the idea.
  • It seems there are a lot of clone YouTube apps: Tube Pro by Fast Code, Tube HD by Idea Creator Corp, TouchTube by Hardrock App are all the same app by the same developer.
  • GMaps+ by Maps Remedy, Maps and Maps+ by Live Tiles are the same. This is a case of the same developer creating multiple accounts to publish the same app.
  • Medium had a great article on a similar issue impacting the Play Store as well. 
    https://medium.com/@Tspoon/optimizing-the-play-store-for-quality-504d4ee...
  • New+rising is full of fake apps ....
  • New &Rising is exactly where to catch them because the bad players use fake review services to bump the clone up that list.
  • Did anyone saw that there is another windows central app in store,which according to the reviews is heavily Ad
  • There are quite a few WinCen clones, and they all look terrible XD
  • And then we have people asking for more "openness" from Microsoft, mainly with their Xbox certification. More curation, I say.
  • Much needed article...
  • Store is horrible and the search in the store is even worse. Trying to search for anything here related brings up nothing. it is better to bing search a app with windows phone store in the name in order to get the link which opens up the store.  
  • Yes, it is just as bad on the pc store. I remember a search for tubecast typed in as "tube cast" revealed dozens of YouTube clone apps (many didnt even have tube or cast in the name) but not the most popular YouTube app in the store. The search algorithm stinks. I cannot believe this has not been fixed. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Agree
  • Agreed
  • I thought this was an article on the game, Star Wars: Clone Wars. Then I read it
  • Props for reading the article. I'm sure we will see a post complaining about an issue with that game soon.
  • It's amazing how bad Microsoft is at preventing shady apps from entering the Store. I even had to alert them to a dangerous clone of Max & the Magic Marker (a Microsoft-owned IP, nonetheless!) that blatantly used Max on the game art and requested all sorts of dubious permissions from the user.
  • I honestly don't think Microsoft gives a damn. It's why you can download Super Mario World of all things as well as a multitude of other blatant copyright infringements.
  • There are fake Store apps as well.. How come MS give license to such an App when WP supports installation of apps ONLY from the real Store ... If they start to remove these kind of apps , that'll end up in another rumour in tech sites.. And the Title will be " Apps in Windows Phone Store is drastically decreasing : End of Windows Phone ? " .. :D
  • There are so many junk apps in the store that I'd have to quit my job in order to find time to report them all. It's like Microsoft isn't doing any curation of the app store at all.
  • We should just make forum post and link all those to report them.
  • There I is one "developer" that released some fake games on the Windows store. If you search for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. You will then see that person has published around 80 fake games (including Fallout 3and others) and all these games cost like 6.99 or so. I reported one of them. But I can't just report 80 of them. Too many for me to do. I wish I could just report the "developer" himself.
    .
    I will post his name and link the fake games in a forums post. Hopefully, we can all take down these fake games.
  • The store even has a fake snapchat app...
  • This story is not complete without a link to Mike9k's forum post detailing this problem:  http://forums.windowscentral.com/general-windows-phone-discussion-lounge...
  • And while you're making apps, someone make a decent alarm clock for fucksake. One that will play music and start out quietly, and get louder progressively instead of full blast out the gate. Some of us sleep lightly. They could clone the hell out of that, and I wouldn't mind. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • uhhhh  https://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/gentle-alarm-clock/6a2a61e6... Posted from a Windows Device
  • Uhhh.. Bought it weeks ago ... Doesn't work like the Android one. Only the previous alarm starts out quiet, but quiet is based off the system volume. It's junk. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Pre alarm * and the windows version doesn't play music other than what it comes with, AND you have ONE alarm, which has to be set daily. The Android "Gentle Alarm" plays anything on the phone, starting out as a whisper on the main alarm, has multiple profiles and alarm times, and so much more. Oh, and the two versions between windows and Android have nothing to do with each other, yet the windows version chose to steal the name. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • ***** This article is "😊"
  • And yet they unpublish and blacklist my original apps. Thanks a LOT Microsoft. 
  • If you wrote "Gentle Alarm" for the windows store, I'd blacklist you myself if I could. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Well, look on the bright side.  At least some developers are taking interest, even if they are just hacks.  If it were such a dying platform the scam artists wouldn't be here.
  • It's hard to say which problem is worse for Microsoft - the number of fake and copied apps out on the store or the perceived lack of essential apps in the store.  Microsoft needs to address the cloned / fake apps soon so those that actually develop top tier apps have incentive to publish their wares.  Why put a game out on Windows Phone if some idiot is going to publish a free, ad-banner ladden version within a week?
  • create a "plagiarism checker" for the store for the code of the apps.  When submitted, if the coding is above a certain percent identical to something already in the store, it will be flagged and reviewed.
  • Those clones should be welcomed since some apps aren't available for the OS, so clones are better than nothing. Some clones are really great actually.
  • Timber logs into Tinder and looks exactly the same. I would report this type of app except WP lacks apps that are available to millions on android/ios 
  • Devs with more than four apps reported and removed by being misleading should be banned and all their apps removed.
      The same should happen if the dev has one app removed by child exploitation. Malware/Virus should be two, while privacy concerns and offensive content could follow the same rule of four.   A search by developer, a category for the best devs, a dev rating and more focus given to the dev name and its rating in the Store could also help people find the best real apps. A category for new developers could exist to help promote new developers as well as dump the scammers right at the beginning.   In the authorisation process it could do a search for apps with similar names, they have Bing, can't they implement that engine to look for those? With some little search I could find thousands of misleading apps with equal names but with some special char at the beginning or end of the app name.
  • I wouldn't hold my breath for Microsoft to sort out this problem. This issue has been highlighted many times in the past as well as the problem of scam apps. Microsoft even released a statement saying they will clean up the store but still nothing much has changed.
  • Finally something going to be done about it. Hate the way there is many apps like 2048 which are the same. Just leave the official one and bin the rest of them.
  • I've always assumed this was be design, due to some manager being overzealous in trying to prop up the app store numbers.  Because, it's difficult to believe anyone could be so incompetent for it to all be just an accident.