A few months ago I was looking for a white noise iPad app to help me get to sleep in my noisy urban neighbourhood. After looking at a few, I decided to give Soundwaves a try. It was free and featured several different ambient sounds, including White Noise, Brown Noise, Forest Night, Hard Rain and even Furnace and Dishwasher(!). And if these weren’t enough choice, you could unlock additional noises such as Thunderstorm for $0.99.
After a few days I decided that Soundwaves wasn’t what I needed. Not that it was a bad app, but its range of sounds was too limiting — I figured something that mixed in music as well would be better. I eventually settled on Relax Melodies Premium Edition ($3.99) but while searching in the App Store I came across some apps that seemed very familiar.
First I looked at an app called iDream – Sleep Maker. It offered a range of ambient sounds, including White Noise, Brown Noise, Ocean Surf and Paradise. And if these weren’t enough choice, you could unlock additional noises such as Thunderstorm for $0.99. According to the App Store description, “iDream helps you sleep. Choose from a selection of relaxing, neutral. soundscapes to mask unwanted sounds in your environment. Continuous audio without melody or lyrics promotes better sleeping conditions.”
Then there was Dreambot. It offered a range of ambient sounds, including White Noise, Brown Noise, Forest Night, Thunderstorm and Stream. According to the App Store description, “Dreambot helps you sleep. Choose from a selection of relaxing, neutral. soundscapes to mask unwanted sounds in your environment. Continuous audio without melody or lyrics promotes better sleeping conditions.”
Also on offer were Meditator, Tuneout-Sound Blocker, Nap Bot, iPacifier, Mood Mod, iEarplugs, Noise Block, iRelax-Soundscapes, SleepAid, Power Nap, Babywaves, Yoga Sound, Hushbaby and Focus+. Yoga Sound (in the health and fitness category) was supposed to “help you focus” according to the app description; its “continuous soundscapes without melody or lyrics help promote a feeling of relaxation.” Focus+ (productivity category) on the other hand “helps you concentrate. Continuous soundscapes without melody or lyrics help promote a sense of clarity and productivity. Tune out a distracting or noisy work environment. Focus+ also makes a great sleep aid…”
You get the picture. Except for the names, categories (Meditator was in the medical category, Soundwaves in the educational category and Dreambot in health and fitness) and price (some are free, some cost $1.99 or $2.99) they were almost identical. Same interface, same functionality, same developer.
There are slight differences in the sounds offered — most sounds (such as White Noise, Pink Noise and Brown Noise) are constant across the apps, but some that are part of the basic package in one app are optional extras in another app — but we are basically talking about exactly the same app offered in the App Store under different names and categories.
The developer, to his credit, also offers apps that have nothing to do with white noise, including a very useful app for Toronto commuters called Red Rocket ($2.99), but if I had shelled out $2.99 for iRelax-Soundscapes and then saw the almost identical Dreambot available for free, I might be a little upset.
I wonder if offering the same app under several different names is commonplace, and whether Apple should develop a policy regarding this practice.
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