Sprinkles and Apple Clips Shine a Light on The Mobile App Copycat Game

Just weeks after Apple announced “Clips,” a new video editing and sharing app, Microsoft introduced its own take on mobile editing. “Sprinkles” is a camera app that automatically adds stickers and captions based on the objects it detects in the photo. Combining the features of other Microsoft iOS apps, this tech uses artificial intelligence, as well as facial and object recognition software. Users can then export and share their creations to social media.

As Microsoft joins the ranks of tech giants hoping to strike social media gold, users are starting to notice that a lot of these apps seem pretty much the same. Tech bloggers and reporters have recently been grappling with this mobile app copycat phenomenon, too.

The world’s most popular social apps are starting to look a little…similar,” Kurt Wagner and Rani Malla write in recode. “As companies like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and [Snapcaht] have evolved, they’ve started to borrow product ideas from each other in the hope of building an all-in-one experience.”

What Does Apple Clips Bring to the Table?

Much like Sprinkles, Apple Clips is taking advantage of the social sharing trend. Clips isn’t meant to act as a social media platform itself, but rather this video recording and sharing app allows users to easily capture, edit, and upload videos on a smartphone. Mirroring Snapchat and Instagram’s story feature, users can add text, graphics, filters, and emojis. They can also select music to accompany their videos. The videos can then be shared through social media or the iPhone’s messaging app.

But Is Clips Trying To Replace Snapchat and Instagram?

Since Apple’s March announcement, some Apple fans are wondering if Clips aims to replace popular social media platforms. It does have some distinguishing features. For instance, the Live Titles feature lets users speak while recording their video as the app automatically generates subtitles. This process happens in real time.

With this feature, Clips is responding to the popularity of muted videos on social media feeds. This solves the problem of wanting to watch a video in a public place by cutting down on noise.

“Muted videos are infinitely more courteous than unmuted ones,” Margaret Rhodes writes in Wired. “Text-on-screen has become a crucial barrier to entry not just for media outlets and YouTube stars, but anyone who wants their social videos to be seen by as many eyeballs as possible.”

Rhodes goes as far as to say that Live Titles alone could make Apple Clips a success.

“A tool that promises to makes captioning simpler, more intuitive, maybe even a little fun, is no small thing,” she writes. “If Live Titles is truly effortless to use, Clips could be very successful—in which case, Snapchat and Instagram might soon be the ones cribbing from Apple’s playbook.”

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But not everyone believes Clips will overtake Instagram and Snapchat; other tech writers argue that the app will exclusively be a supplement, since it is not its own social platform. However, Brian Heater of Tech Crunch predicts that Apple could be using the app to preview a bigger social media project down the line.

“It’s hard to say precisely what’s behind the unique play for the company, though it’s hard to shake the feeling that Apple is working to lay the groundwork for something larger, be it hardware or software,” he writes.

Of course, if that prediction proves wrong, then Apple Clips could just be another in a long, long line of mobile video editing apps.

Why Tech Companies Steal Ideas

As consumers spend more time on their phones, mobile app makers and social media companies are benefitting. Industry experts estimate that 50% of mobile phone owners use their devices as their main Internet source. This means that more people are clicking mobile ads, downloading apps, and visiting mobile web pages.

Tech giants already have wide access to these users, so by piggybacking on the ideas of other companies they can easily expand their ideas and user base. So while we are seeing widespread imitation in Silicon Valley, this doesn’t mean that there’s a level playing field. Giant companies like Apple and Microsoft are well placed to capitalize off app ideas that have already proven popular among users.

“It’s possible this convergence means there is room for unique social apps to crop up and succeed, like Houseparty and its group-video feature, or Musical.ly and its user-generated music videos,” write Wagner and Molla. “More likely: The bigger players will wait these little guys out to see what works and which apps are stealing their time, and then make a move to acquire their company or steal their idea.”

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