14 December 2012

Discontinuing Undercover iOS

It was a very tough call to make, but we decided to discontinue our Undercover iOS app. The main reason for this is that iOS background location tracking is still too unreliable to use in a theft-recovery application. Many times, significant location changes simply do not trigger Undercover. We also tested other theft-protection iOS apps and these tests clearly confirm the issue. In most cases, these apps simply don't phone home. As a result, we don't see how we can develop an iOS app that meets our high standards in theft recovery.

Given the fact that Apple does not give us access to the same system features for location tracking and device locking as they are using for Find My iPhone, and because Apple is giving away Find My iPhone for free with iCloud, we decided it makes more sense to focus all our development efforts on Undercover for Mac.


Anonymous said...

QUOTE and because Apple is giving away Find My iPhone for free with iCloud, we decided it makes more sense to focus all our development efforts on Undercover for Mac. UNQUOTE

But they also give Find My Mac away for free; does that mean Undercover for OSX is also doomed? I hope not!

Anonymous said...

so this means we get our money back?

Peter Schols said...

@Anonymous: as you can see in the sentence you are quoting, we are focussing all our development efforts on Undercover Mac, so we are definitely not abandoning it.

As the first part of the sentence says: we are discontinuing Undercover iOS because Apple does not give us access to the same system features they have access to. That's the main reason. The fact that they are giving away their solution for free just makes it worse - from our point of view. On the other hand, it makes it safe for us to abandon our solution, as we can point our users to a free alternative from Apple.

Peter Schols said...

@Anonymous: you can get a refund from Apple: http://gizmodo.com/5886683/how-to-get-a-refund-from-the-app-store

Anonymous said...

Sad news, but I accept the decision. I had no idea there were shortcomings in background location tracking.

Theoretically, could Undercover for iOS return if iOS provides full background multi-tasking in the future?

Will Undercover for iOS continue to work on our iOS devices we have registered in Undercovercentre.com ?

Peter Schols said...

@bigmwkd: yes, Undercover iOS keeps working on devices it's already installed on, in combination with Undercovercenter.com.

If Apple changes third party access to the system, we will reconsider our decision.

Anonymous said...

Then why did you sell it in the first place?

Peter Schols said...

@Anonymous: because the first version did not have background location tracking at all, as Apple was not providing it at that time. It was using push notifications to activate the app.

Anonymous said...

I understand the issue with accuracy.
However, I don't think Apple's "Find my iPhone" app and iCloud are as useful. It can only track one device at a time in my family.

I was hoping Undercover was going to track all the macs in the family as well as the iphone and ipads. With each person having a different Appleid, they all cannot be tracked at the same time.

I think Apple was dragged over the coals about location services by privacy advocates. They were all concerned that the location information was being shared to third persons for unknown or vicious reasons. I think Apple had to come out and commit that they were not sharing the information and they were only tracking it with the user's permission. One step forward, two steps back if you ask me.

Perhaps in the future you can sell your apps to Apple so they can further develop them and distinguish their products from all the competing phones and pads.

Anonymous said...

The "find my idevice" is not very usefull from a police perspective. It does not provide any useful info. It is more a gimmick. No IP address, no photos, no valuable info.

Too bad Undercover cannot run on iOs. Not surprised in any way, as Apple likes to have full control.

Anonymous said...

And now they've also dropped Witness, using some ludicrous excuse of it being incompatible with Yosemite and IOS8. The truth is simpler: they hired some new Dilbertian character to run the company, and he's cutting off the less profitable products.

Orbicule is a brilliant innovative company with a lot of talent and good product ideas, but in today's world short-term profit rules.

Trust a company like this? Better start looking for alternatives before the next surprise...

Peter Schols said...

The decision to stop Witness development was a hard one. We use the product ourselves on a daily basis to protect the Orbicule office. However, due to Apple's focus on security (which is a good thing), it's increasingly hard / impossible for an app to do things like running in root mode or intercepting notifications from the screensaver / sleep system. The same goes for apps that need a continuous socket connection. As a result, we are receiving more and more support requests from people who have issues with Witness. That's hurting our business in many ways: first of all, users are not happy because Witness is not functioning as expected. But what's worse, we can't really fix these issues because they are either restrictions from Apple, or characteristics of the network our client is on, which we can't even reproduce here. With Yosemite, restrictions for non-App Store apps will be even bigger, making it almost impossible to keep supporting an app like Witness.

Having a product that does not work reliably does not only consume a lot of resources, it also hurts Orbicule's reputation. We have always put our hearts into our products and we don't want to ship crapware. Our internal standards are quite high. If we can no longer meet them, we have to discontinue the product, even though we invested a lot of thought and effort into it.

Best wishes,

Peter Schols
Founder and CEO

A tech savvy user. said...

Thanks for sharing Peter. It's good to hear from a CEO and from a respectable company.

Unknown said...

For a long time I happily used both: UnderCover on the iMac and MacBook and Witness on the mobile phones. I was very sad, when I heard about the decision to discontinue the IOS-line, but Peter Schols found very understandable words to explain their decision.

A moment ago I stumbled across this comment:

Peter Schols said...

@bigmwkd: yes, Undercover iOS keeps working on devices it's already installed on, in combination with Undercovercenter.com.

If Apple changes third party access to the system, we will reconsider our decision.
14 December, 2012 21:34

and I immediately grabbed my two iPhones (4S and 6plus) to check, whether that's true.
But unfortunately I appear to be too late: on both phones, the software appears still to be installed, and when I click on that blue button, there comes the "Registration" page, asking me for my email address and my phone's name in order to register them again.

But no input line on this screen shows any reaction, when I try to enter any letters.

Is my assumption correct, that - even, IF that statement above WAS correct at the time when it was published, it now isn't any more, after installing IOS 9 ?

I keep hoping that you still try to bring your IOS-Software back to life and I would happily apply for a job as software-tester without complaining if any new solution is still not, what it used to be. Because I very well understand, how difficult it must be to convince that stubborn Apple-management, what a great developement for their product had been dumped into the bucket.

Please excuse my english, as it is not my maiden language, but please contact me, if there is still any hope that your software might be re-animated in the future.

And thank you VERY much for the continued support of "UnderCover". Working for an airline I spend a lot of time in various hotels around the world. And it feels good to know about your support "when anything odd happens". Here is a quite funny story, how UnderCover once made my day:

I spent a free afternoon at the hotel's pool, when my iPhone told me about the maid, making up my room upstairs. But I could hardly believe my eyes, when I saw her pouring some of that excellent "Ron Zacapa", into a glass, that I had left on the table, and obviously enjoyed it's taste.

I darted up to my room, where she was still busy. Nothing indicated, what she had just done before. But can you imagine her reaction, when I went to the bar, took TWO glasses, poured some of the rum into them and offered her one of them?

Never before have I seen someone with dark brown skin turning so red :-)

I think, for the rest of her life she will think about, how on earth I had found out about, what had happened before.

"Find my iphone" would never reach, what Orbicule had developed for our toys!!!

Winnie Trekker said...

@Tim Buktu Thank you so much for your positive feedback, that’s so nice to hear!
Your assumption is indeed correct: Undercover for iOS was still working when that comment was published, but the application was no longer being developed or updated for new versions of iOS. And of course when we discontinued Undercover 4, we also shut down the undercovercenter.com platform that supported the iOS version for good.
I must say there are currently no plans for an iOS version - we are keeping our focus on Mac OS X and web applications.

Kind regards,

Bocaceia said...

Hi - I recognize that this is a really old post but my question is somewhat related and it looks like you guys are still paying attention to it.

I just found and purchased Undercover, and am impressed with the software, but I'm very surprised and disappointed that there is no mobile app to *support OSX Undercover*.

I mean, if my MacBook goes missing, I'm going to have to get access to another computer, maybe install LastPass, etc. to get to my account. If traveling, who knows how easy that would be. But with a mobile app I could instantly trigger and monitor everything I need. Well, I guess there's website access via phone (as I think through this - ha!), but that's clunky, and it's surprising to have an alternative device element like that missing from this otherwise robust service.

Peter Schols said...

@Bocaceia thanks for your suggestion, while you can use our website from any mobile device, having an iPhone app would definitely make things easier. We'll definitely keep that in mind.