Smartphones and tablets improve almost faster than consumers can keep up with, and the apps designed for them change even more quickly. That means that there is a lot of opportunity for plagiarism. But surely sometimes it’s just a coincidence, right? It’s not out of the question that two developers could realistically be trying to fulfill the same need.

This week has brought us one more heated internet debate: Is hotel application Tonight by Japan’s GREE a rip-off of North American app Hotel Tonight, or are their similarities just coincidence?

Internet users are claiming that GREE Inc. (known for their social networking app and profusion of social game apps) has simply lifted the idea for their newest app, dubbed Tonight, from the popular American app Hotel Tonight. Each app advertises same-day reservations at low rates, and net users are pointing out that their websites are strikingly similar.

▼ The website for GREE’s service promises “Tonight’s hotel, reserved in ten seconds.”

Tonight Website 1

▼ They advertise carefully chosen luxury hotels for classy adults in just three taps and a swipe.

Tonight Website 2

Hotel Tonight’s Google Play page advertises:

✔ Curated selection of hotels to make your choice easy
✔ Top-rated hotels: we only work with places where we’d want to stay, too
✔ Super easy to book a room (book in 10 seconds – just 3 taps and a swipe!)

That is actually quite incriminating!

▼ Hotel Tonight’s website design is a little less minimalist, if only because they have more information to show.

Hotel Tonight Website 1

▼ They’re “taking over the globe” starting with North America and Europe, but now they’ve got competition in Asia.

Hotel Tonight Website 2

▼ Hotel Tonight has gotten plenty of press, as you can see. Their tagline is “The night is young,”

Hotel Tonight Website 3

While the branding is very similar, the way each app works seems a bit different. The Google Play page for Tonight states that you can search based on where you are. The app will use your location to search nearby hotels, plotting your options on a map.

Tonight on Play

While Tonight is currently only available in Tokyo (they have plans to expand in time), Hotel Tonight lets you search by city. Otherwise, their results look a lot more like a standard search.

▼ After all, pictures of hotels are pictures of hotels.

Hotel Tonight on Play

The interesting thing is that Tonight does not clearly show affiliation with GREE Inc. A reviewer (under a screen name meaning “from 2 channel”) on the iTunes app store complains of GREE’s seemingly shady behavior:

“I don’t see any merit to using this.”
“Why are you hiding that it’s produced by GREE?”
“It seems like you’re trying to hide that low ‘kompu gacha’ image.”

“Kompu gacha” (or “complete drop”) is a strategy used by a lot of so-called ‘pay-to-win’ smartphone games where a player can only get certain rare characters or items after they have bought the full set. In other words, GREE may not only be copying a lucrative model, but could also be trying to squeeze more money out of the users than is otherwise apparent.

I’ll leave it up to our readers to decide whether GREE is innocently moving in a new direction here or simply ripping off a successful design. What do you think? Are they trying to fill a niche market or is the fact that the company is not even including its name on this new app somehow telling? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Source: Net Lab
Images: Tonight, Hotel Tonight, Google Play (1, 2)