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Greg Hughes, a third year computer science student at the University of Birmingham, developed an application called “Wi-Fi Sync” and offered it to Apple’s App Store in May 2010. The app was designed to sync iTunes libraries with iPhones over a wireless wireless network rather than via a USB connector.
After the App Store rejected his submission Mr Hughes put his app up for sale on the Cydia store, a rival to the App Store which sells software for “jailbroken” iPhones - devices which have had the usage limitations imposed by Apple removed. The app, priced at $9.99 (£6.07), has become one of Cydia’s top products, selling more than 50,000 copies since its release.
But this Monday, Apple unveiled its new iPhone operating system, iOS 5, with an inbuilt feature also called Wi-Fi Sync, which carries out the same wireless syncing function. It also has a very similar logo [see image above].
Mr Hughes told The Telegraph: “I was completely shocked. I’m in the middle of exams so the timing isn’t great."
"I’d been selling my app with that name and icon for a year. Apple knew about it as I’d submitted it to them, so it was surprising to see that they had pinched it for iOS 5.”
He has taken legal advice and says he intends to pursue the matter further.
“At the end of the day you have to stand up and defend your work,” he said.
Before his app was rejected, Mr Hughes he received a personal call from an App Store representative called Steve Rea, who said that the app was excellent, but had security issues and went beyond the functions specified in the official iPhone software development kit.
“They did say that the iPhone engineering team had looked at it and were quite impressed,” Hughes told The Register. “They asked me to send my CV for after I graduate.”
Wi-Fi Sync was Mr Hughes’ first app release and has funded him through his final year of university. He intends to take up app development full time when he graduates.
For its part, Apple is fiercely protective of its own intellectual property. It recently accused Samsung of “slavish” copying of the iPhone and iPad designs.
And as The Register, a technology news website, points out, it recently sued a student who sold kits allowing iPhone 4 users to convert their black phones to white, it sued Amazon for calling its app store Appstore, and last year it sued HTC for infringing copyrights.
Steve Jobs, the CEO of the company, said at the time: "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."
Apple declined to comment.
Quite unsurprising… Apple stealing ideas.