Clue, a popular app women use to track their periods, has risen to near the top of Apple’s Health and Fitness category.
It could be downhill from here.
Apple plans this month to incorporate some of Clue’s core functionality such as fertility and period prediction into its own Health app that comes pre-installed in every iPhone and is free, unlike Clue, which earns money by selling subscriptions and services in its free app. Apple’s past incorporation of functionality included in other third-party apps has often led to their demise.
Clue’s new threat shows how Apple plays a dual role in the app economy: provider of access to independent apps and giant competitor to them.
“It’s a love-hate relationship, of course. You don’t want to annoy the milkman when you only have one milkman,” said Ida Tin, Clue’s CEO, who coined the term “fem tech.” Though Tin believes her Berlin-based company can coexist with Apple, she said it highlights the “skewed power distribution” in the tech industry.
Developers have come to accept that, without warning, Apple can make their work obsolete by announcing a new app or feature that uses or incorporates their ideas. Some apps have simply buckled under the pressure, in some cases shutting down. They generally don’t sue Apple because of the difficulty and expense in fighting the tech giant-and the consequences they might face from being dependent on the platform.