Lately there has been quite a bit of discussion about iPhone applications piracy. An article on MobileCrunch mentions Beejive, for which apparently 80% of downloads are illegal (aka cracked versions).

I want to share my views with you about this topic but first, I want to make things clear. I do not endorse app piracy (or any type of piracy for that matter). I believe developers deserve to get paid for their hard work. If I was a developer being ripped off, I would most likely complain too.

This being said, if you’re a loyal reader of this blog, you know by now that I don’t care about what the mainstream people do or think. I don’t have to put a face on and pretend to be someone I am not. I am straightforward and say what I think. That’s why you love me or hate me. What I’m going to say here will probably piss some developers off but I’m not here to please everyone…

Crackers Would Not Buy the App Anyway

In my article about the new Install0us last week, iDB reader Polemicist commented on it and basically said that if someone downloads a cracked version of an app, he probably would have never bought it in the first place anyways, so there is no real loss of revenue.

And this is a major point. I assume most people downloading cracked applications are kids. Kids don’t have money. Older people (25 and up) have a bit of money and in most cases don’t mind paying 10 bucks for an app if that means they can download it quickly and don’t have to deal with cumbersome illegal downloads.

Crackers download a cracked version of NBA Live because they don’t have $10 to spend on it in the App Store, not because they don’t want to pay for it. Developers complaining that they are losing potential sales are wrong. If their app wasn’t cracked, kids wouldn’t download it at all.

A Cracked App Downloaded is Better Than No App Downloaded

This can be related to the old marketing saying stating that “there is no bad advertising”, which means that what really matters is having your name out, no matter what people are saying about you.

The same can apply to applications (and illegally downloaded music as well). Someone who illegally downloaded NBA Live wouldn’t have purchased it in the first place, so there is no revenue loss. But more importantly, this guy who installed a cracked version of NBA Live might very well talk about it on Twitter, Facebook, or directly to his friends.

And that is powerful advertising, much more powerful than a good review on TUAW because people will get the word out to their communities, maybe even generating sales from it.

Just like you illegally downloaded the latest Lady Gaga, you’re probably going to talk to your friends about how great the album is (side note: I hate that crap), or how good the video is. Following your recommendation, maybe your friend is going to buy the album and you might even purchase concert tickets to see her live.

And it came full circle. It started with an illegal download, which turned into good old word to mouth, which turned into sales.

Cracked Apps As A Way to Try Applications Out Before Buying Them

This is another part of the comment left by Polemicist:

Personally I have spent more money on Apps because of getting Appz from Installous than I would have under normal circumstances.

Many people report that they download cracked apps because they want to try them out first. Sure there are the “lite” versions and even now the in-app purchase but these don’t give you full access to an application.

I’ve done it before and I’ll probably do it again. I admit that I downloaded cracked apps to try them out. Tweetie was one of them. After paying for a few Twitter apps, I wasn’t satisfied with what I got. I was also pissed I had paid money for some apps that were not good for me. I downloaded a cracked version of Tweetie 1 and after using it for a few days, I bought it in the App Store.

Once again, an illegal download turned into a sale which wouldn’t have occurred if it wasn’t for the cracked version.

I know I’m not the only one out there doing this. I am pretty confident that someone will leave a comment telling me I’m a cheap ass for complaining about $2 applications. These kind of comments are annoying because they miss the point. In these cases, it’s not about money, it’s about value!

This Is No Excuse For Downloading Cracked Apps

I’m obviously not trying to say that downloading cracked applications is ok because it might turn into sales. I’m just trying to say that cracked apps might not be as bad as people want you to believe they are.

What do you think about cracked applications? Do you download them? Would you pay for the app in the first place?

Image: MobileCrunch

  • antonio

    Not only that, the number of users actually pirating apps is very low. Less than half the people that jailbreak, according to latest stats. That is around of 4% of total iphone users. So, what´s the real problem here? – Devs don´t sell enought to the HUGE majority that does not pirate games

  • Blapp

    Beejive is ridiculously expensive! I downloaded it illegally, but would never buy it if i couldnt get it for free. There’s far too many free or cheaper decent alternatives.

  • Eldaria

    I can honestly say I did install pirated apps on my iPhone, but have none of the pirated versions anymore.
    I’m in the category of trying before buying.
    I downloaded the three major GPS apps, Navigon, TomTom and iGo, all of which are very expensive and no trial or lite version exists.

    They work very differently than their none iPhone versions, and to be honest i’m happy I did.
    I have used iGo on windows mobile, my mom has a standalone TomTom device, and was planning on buying iGo for the iPhone, since I had been happy for the Windows Mobile version, but wanted to test before buying, so I downloaded them all onto the iphone and went for a drive, and boy were I disappointed with iGo.
    And TomTom was not much better, but Navigon were great, smooth and easy to use.
    So I removed all three, and bought the Europe version of Navigon in the App Store.

    So in my case, indeed iGo lost a potential buy, as I might have bought it, and Navigon gained a buy.

    And I have plenty of apps in my phone that I paid for, Navigon, Beejiwe, Dungeon Hunter, iSSH, Dark Nebula, Pinball Fantasies, just to mention a few.
    Perhaps Apple should introduce a try before you buy?

    And additionally I think you should add another reason that people might Pirate an app.
    Regional restrictions:
    Take for example the Photoshop app, it is not available in my app store, I have found many apps that I wanted to buy but can’t because i’m in the wrong country.
    And no, I did not Pirate any of them.

  • Jfff

    You’re right, I ended up buying Mondo, a solitaire game, StarDefense, Convertbot, Camera Genius, Where to? Doddle Jump, Topple 2 (before it turns free), Cribbage deluxe, Intelliscreen and Trism because I tried them first and liked them, if it wasn’t about appz I would have stayed with free lite apps like most of my friends (we’re about 30, not kids, but with recesion you don’t spend all your money trying apps you’re not sure to love). Most big title is not that great, I mean who really played more than one or twice to Sega’s Monkey ball or any of the big titles ported to iPhone? NGmoco seams to be one of the only company who really understood the iPhone game market. They give for free their game now so people can try them and they sell stuff to fullfill the game like new levels or foo in the case of touchpets dogs. I think this could be the best protection against piracy, give the games for free!

  • slowhand

    I can definitely relate to your third point!
    Cracked apps are the best way to try out FULL versions of apps.
    A lot of people then decide to actually buy the app because they don’t want the hassle of not being able to update without waiting for a cracked updated version…
    So, all in all – if your app is good, you’re not gonna fear piracy 😉

  • Gordon

    It is great to hear a bunch of hypocrite trying to rationalize piracy. Go ahead guys and teach your kids that it ok to steal if you can’t pay for it.

  • frag

    Sorry but Gordon is right, the message that it’s okay to do such things is just wrong. Why not go out and steal a car to test it out before you buy it. Maybe even go brake into someones house and live in it for awhile before you decide to buy it.

    It’s a slippery slope regardless of which way you twist it. I’ve always lived by the principle that if you can’t afford it, then you just don’t get the luxury of being able to use it.

    If I were a developer, I’d be trying to incorporate every measure possible to prevent people from running my application if they didn’t pay for it.

    Anywho, piracy is lame.

  • bliblabla

    I have installed a fue cracked apps, but i have paid a lot from app store to. And i have also switched apps with some other who had ipod touch, try that out ; )

  • Frag: your arguments fail, if I want to buy a car, I go and take a test drive first, or do you often buy a car without testing? Perhaps based on reviews? Or when you buy a house you don’t go to a viewing first so you can look around and see if it fits your demands and that it is not falling apart?
    Perhaps you decide to buy it based only on pretty pictures and what other people who lived there thinks about it?

  • frag

    Your arguments are no better

  • alex

    Am working for a large software company, been working in SW engineering for a long time: piracy is good for software, in many respects. I think your point is correct, most piracy (in volume) comes out of from people with no revenue (i.e. teens). Ultimately teens grow-up, and now then can spend the buck, and they WILL. What drives the value of software ultimately, is how the software evolve and inspire on a continuous level, and remains practical (easy to buy, acquire, use, throw away). But one cannot expect every persons to pay for SW, unlike what happens in a grocery store (unless you are ALSO into shop lifting). Software ain’t banana, no matter how you look at it.

  • Ted

    So u should go to target an take a tv. No real loss right. Don’t have the money. Give me a break. You are stealing. It’s all I got to say.

  • Dave

    I would have never baught an iphone if i could not get cracked apps. Buying apps if for the people to stupid to download them for free. I pay for the hardware which is the iphone and the service I’m not going to waste more money on data… I can take a picture of a painting. and thats all im doing is taking a copy of something…. On a side note the only apps that are worth anything are not even in the app store. back grounder, 5 icon dock, quick reply. open ssh, ibluetooth, ifile… All of these should be included with the stock iphone. so apple has no one to blame but themselves.

  • Dave

    Just want to add
    I would Never download a song from Itunes, BUY a CD, Buy A dvd, or buy software that i have never used.

    If its a movie i like i see it in the movies.
    A band i want to support i go to a concert.
    Software I like I buy.

    The day i can’t download it is the day i stop using it.

  • frag

    Dave, you’re a moron.

    Calling people stupid for not stealing while you’re spelling half of your shit wrong is just hilarious. Developers aren’t spending the $99 a year to become a Developer to develop apps just for them to be stolen. I’ll laugh when Apple finally makes it impossible to crack paid apps and all the stupid 12 year old kids can’t steal anymore.

    Everyone wants everything for free and refuse to give anything back. You people make me sick.

  • Dave

    If apple releases a firmware that is better than my current( open source any app possible) than I will update. If its not better I won’t simple. The only apple apps i have are games that I almost never use anyway.

  • Lucky

    i think not all developers are not involved piracy.(directly or indirectly). i don’t think all the developers are using purchased softwares, games or even music album. atleast there must be some devs are using pirated softwares or games or Songs. and one more thing, when app store launched, many developers moved to app store from installer / cydia. JUST for money!! or may be for better exposure to public.

  • MegaloManiac

    Honestly i am a software coder i do codes all the time not for sales but i do know what they are

    saying that stealing a car is the same as stealing software is an awful comparison

    because unlike software i cannot nor will i ever be able to copy paste the car and make as many copies as i want

    software is not a solid object its like stealing a song

    yes they musician made the song but do you think he sang it once for every cd
    no he sang it once and COPY

    now im not saying we should download apps personally as a coder i am against it but don’t use stupid comparisons to try and make it seem like a huge deal developers lose less then you’d think

  • MegaloManiac

    but i am for jailbreaking i love having personal themes and ringtones

  • Juan

    @Frag Calling others an idiot when you yourself are an idiot is more amusing. Everyone wants everything for free? Really now? Even me? How can you speak for me? Again, you’re an idiot for assuming shit without even knowing hard facts.

    I am a developer. I paid my $99 a year and I do and will continue to try before I buy via Installous or Appulous. Don’t give me a moral lecture before even knowing that my phone has 0 cracked apps on it. I just don’t leave cracked apps on my phone long. I either buy them or delete them. Very simple.

    And if I delete it, what did the developer lose? I didn’t buy. I won’t buy it so there never was any point of sale. If I try and then buy it, then the developer made a sale. Yippie!

    As far as the 12 year old kids stealing.. Does it really make a difference? They don’t have the money to buy apps in the first place so the developer will never make any sales.

  • frag

    You’re clearly missing the entire message, they are STEALING. Regardless if they’re 12 year old kids or not, the message is not right at all. You’re telling them that it’s okay to take other peoples hard work.

    So yeah, dumbass.

  • Eldaria

    Juan: don’t bother with frag 🙂
    “Don’t argue with idiots, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience”

  • Dylan

    U hav a very good point. alot of my frens always say cracked apps are better and cracked apps r good, but really tho, wats the point? i mean i understand buying no good apps, but piracy of an app before u buy it is kind of useless. look for reviews online and light versions to prevent any damn legal issues.

  • frag

    It’s sad to see how moronic and low some iPhone owners are.

  • Dylan

    Frag, look, kids are gonna steal anything. im only 14 and i now that stuff. the damn devs wont make money unless u buy there app. they wont lose money if u dont buy tha app. is that to hard to understand?

  • Dylan

    and dont be kalling us low. u ass

  • frag

    Oh god haha

    I won’t “kall” you an ass again, sorry moron.

  • Megalomaniac

    I love this frag and his enemies go to name calling

  • Daniel

    “’ll laugh when Apple finally makes it impossible to crack paid apps and all the stupid 12 year old kids can’t steal anymore.”

    What does it matter to you what other people do? If you strongly believe that piracy is wrong and its stealing, then great you go ahead and pay for it.

    Don’t come on here and give other people shit for disagreeing with you. Your just like a pot head, trying to get other people to smoke to agree with your lifestyle.

    No one gives a shit if you think piracy is wrong, and no one cares if you flame them. Their still going to do it, so just shut your trap. Douche.

  • Polemicist

    I love Frag. The lone voice crying out for the little guy. Brings a tear to my eye.

    I’ve spent hundreds on iPhone apps. I’ve spent tens of thousands on software. And I’ve been test driving everything first for many many years.

    Keep up the great work Frag. You are very much alone in your fight. But I’m right behind you … Laughing… 🙂 Thanks for keeping us entertained. You rock.

  • @Daniel – Don’t you think there will always be a 12 year somewhere smarter than Apple?

    To me arguing about this is silly. People are going to do it and its only getting bigger every year. What developers and the music, movie, software, ebook industry need to do is figure out a new business model.

  • frag

    Or you know, people could not steal.

  • Polemicist

    A technicality with all applications… It has to be transferred from one medium to another. That transfer is what makes the application impossible to protect. PS3 is one of the rare systems that actually got it right as it is a completely closed off system with no backward compatibility. And to my knowledge it is the ONLY one that has got copy protection right. So unless all systems become closed off which is INCLUSIVE of the internet then it will not be possible to protect applications EVER… I say that with extreme confidence.

  • Dylan

    Lol. Do wa u r gonna do. If u r in to piracy than great. If not than shut up and that’s fine 2. Just don’t come one shit takin anyone else for there damned opinions. 

  • leakyD

    Devs:

    the main problem is a flawed app store:

    1. no FULL trials of paid apps (15-30 days)
    2. no refunds

    until this happens, people will explore alternative methods to test apps.

    there will always be people who will never pay for apps/software. this has occurred since the dawn of commercial software.

    call this CODB (cost of doing business).

    if you’re good, you can manipulate the cheapskates into becoming your marketing team (good apps will be bragged about). offer in-app incentives. The “loss” could become break even.

    Human behavior will not change until we evolve. Until then, lobby your distributor (apple) for a better app store.

  • magma9495

    I used beejive for about a month cracked, before they has the crack protection, and I loved it so much I bought it :p

  • Polemicist

    @leakyD… If you have a look on this blog you will see that you can get refunds off Apple. 🙂 As for getting a better App Store remember the catch cry “Apple – It just works”… The App store works and that is all they seem to care about… One day they might rewrite it but I can’t see that happening any day soon…

  • I am 100% amazed how many spelling and grammar errors there are. I am also amazed at how many people are afraid to link back to their site. Secondly, Sebastian says he does not condone downloading cracked apps he however says that people ALREADY (again not trying to make people download them, he states that in the first paragraph) pirating the app have positive effects on the app itself. I agree that “bad publicity is publicity”. You know those stupid local commercials you see that always run and they are horrible? Don’t you tell all your friends how much they suck? Or the stupid jingle they have? That’s brand retention & recognition.

    The people pirating apps are going to pirate regardless, Sebastian is just stating that its not all bad because they are still getting word of mouth and maybe even sales from it. He is not condoning stealing and neither am I. I think people misread his post and how he meant it. Piracy is everywhere and will be everywhere as long as someone wants the software, music, app or movie bad enough to download it. They will find a way.

    As others have said stealing is stealing yes, and you should teach your kids not to do it but, this post was about piracy ALREADY happening and what his thoughts were about it.

    • Hey Chad, thanks for your support.
      I also think it’s interesting how people can be such hypocrites. No one is an “e-saint”. I am sure that all of these people raising their voice against piracy illegally downloaded a movie or a song at some point, or even burned a CD or DVD from a friend, or such “illegal” activity.
      As I said, I’m not pro piracy but I think people should stop complaining about it and think of creative ways to deal with it. Radiohead did a pretty good job regarding this matter by making their album In rainbow available for download for free. The industry has to be a bit more creative about it I think.
      Sebastien

  • I agree with dealing with it in creative ways. Maybe “lite” versions of the app should be released if its a really bad thing.

    Nine Inch Nails did the same thing with their CD an made it a donation only. It still raked in a million bucks by people donating because it was a good album. I think creativity will win out against piracy. But harnessing that crowd and demographic would not be a bad thing.

  • f1reman

    You’re missing one point:
    There are countries that you simply can not buy apps. USA is not the world (sorry), there are other places.
    And in those (dark… very dark) places, Apple does not allow you to enter a credit card.

    You know what these people do when they really really want a paid app?
    They download a cracked one.

    This is just something you forgot to mention in your article.

    • Hi F1reman,

      You’re right. I forgot to mention that people might download cracked apps because they simply don’t have access to the paid one.

      Thanks for pointing that out.

      Sebastien

  • Lucky

    @ MegaloManiac,

    Dude, if you compare softwares with songs on basis of creation and piracy, most of the points will be same. You sell COPY of software the same way artist sells copy of song. and just to prove it, i can say you keep one copy of software and related files even after selling that software.

    So LOGICALLY, its all same wether you use pirated software or pirated song.