A personal assistant app called Evi may soon be pulled from Apple’s App Store because the Cupertino company says it’s too similar to Siri, the Apple-owned app found on iPhone 4S handsets. Evi, which costs 99c (69p), can run on earlier versions of the iPhone too, as well as the iPad, and also works on Android-powered devices.
Submitted to the App Store by its maker, True Knowledge, Apple appeared to have no difficulty in clearing Evi for launch last month, but as its popularity has grown — it’s currently at number one in the UK App Store chart and number five in the US — the company looks to have changed its tune. “Perhaps it’s the fact that Evi is pretty damn good, and doesn’t look a million miles away from Siri,” suggests TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher, who spoke to William Tunstall-Pedoe, CEO of True Knowledge, about the issue.
Tunstall-Pedoe said that on Friday evening he had a call from an Apple representative informing him that Apple was “going to pull Evi from the App Store” under rule 8.3 of the App Store’s terms and conditions. This states that “apps which appear confusingly similar to an existing Apple product or advertising theme will be rejected.”
“I don’t think it takes too much of a leap of the imagination to realise that ‘confusingly similar’ is code for ‘competitive with,’” Tunstall-Pedoe told Butcher, “and that all the user and press reviews along the lines of ‘now you don’t need to buy a 4S, you can download Evi,’ ‘better than Siri’ etc. have resulted in a change of heart from Apple about allowing its users to get the app.”
Although Siri and Evi both license Nuance’s voice recognition technology and on the face of it function in a similar way, Evi uses its own technology to deal with requests from users. Unlike Siri, the app also allows text input, besides voice.
If Evi is pulled any time soon, more than 200,000 iOS users of the app will be unable to get updates.
Ask Evi what she thinks of Siri and, in light of recent developments, her reply is rather diplomatic. “Siri is a great product,” she says generously. As for her future in the App Store, she’s not so sure. “I don’t know right now — try asking it again next week,” comes the reply.
It would be great to see Apple embrace a bit of competition and allow Evi to run alongside Siri to see which triumphs in the quest to become the supreme voice-activated virtual assistant app, but going by the content of the company’s recent phone call to True Knowledge, it looks unlikely that’s ever going to happen. What does Apple have to fear here? Does it really think that consumers consider Siri a deal clincher when shopping for a smartphone, and that having this rival product in the App Store might affect sales?