Simple Mobile Tools was sold to a shady app company

Simple Mobile Tools (SMT), a suite of small, focused, pro-privacy, and open source Android apps, was a breeze for people looking for simple apps that do one job well without asking weird phone permissions or showing intrusive ads.

However, without prior notice, SMT was sold to ZipoApps. On its website, the company says they “acquire the best apps and take them to the next level”, which is only true if by “next level” they mean “charge expensive subscriptions for no reason”.

Contributors are upset with Tibor Kaputa, founder of SMT, and question whether the project license, GPLv3, even allows a sale without the consent of everyone who contributed to the code ever. There was even talk of bring the issue to the Justice in order to stop the deal.

On GitHub, a long conversation is unfolding, where Tibor confirmed the sale and kind of justified it:

Right, I know that it is a really controversial step that upset many users, sadly the quality of the whole Android ecosystem is dropping really quickly recently and I wanted to avoid slow death. Thanks a lot for the support that me and the apps received over the years, it means a lot to me :)

The craziest thing about this story is that on August, the SMT blog was pushing critical posts to apps that sell user data. A year ago, Timor launched SMT’s own phone (!) with the apps pre-installed.

ZipoApps explains, on its website, that selling an app to them “takes three easy steps” and that “most of our deals are closed within 14 days”.

One of the project contributors, Naveen Singh, forked SMT into a project called FossifyX, and promised to keep SMT going and adherent to its principles. Great for those who are involved, but this doesn’t solve the issue for those who will soon come across popups asking for double-digit weekly subscriptions and will be tracked by shady ad companies ion apps that, so far, were paradigms of pro-privacy best practices.

Every now and then, I have the feeling that these behind the scenes of non-central apps in our lives are almost a curiosity, almost a hobby of mine and a few people who gather in places like Hacker News. The last few days, with this Simple Mobile Tools story, Evernote’s free plan debacle, and Castro’s four-day outage and rumors of a soon to be made shutdown, have shown that it’s not quite like that… right?

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