Considerations for selecting fonts during iOS & Android development

Check the custom fonts used in your apps to avoid lawsuits

hile working on the feature development, maintenance & white-labeling with our biggest client, we received an email from Monotype stating that the apps were using their fonts without a license. They didn’t provide details about which app or which font in the 16 apps (8 titles) violated the policy. Until we were brought in, the fleet of apps were designed, created and maintained for 6 years by Microsoft’s leading consulting partner. We found most of the fonts were used without licenses, but that’s alright, no one’s perfect.

Seeing how its easily overlooked, we decided to write this article, where we will discuss how to check whether your app is using fonts without a license, the negative impact of using unlicensed fonts, and then we will go over tips of what you can do to avoid this situation.

Check what fonts violate licensing

First, we made a list of all the fonts that were used in the iOS & Android apps.
Then we searched several websites like fonts.com & typography.com to check for prices and licensing information.
We found that we were using a font family created by Linotype, and unfortunately Monotype owns that company as well. Upon reading further, we found that it couldn’t be used without purchasing a license.

Negative impact of using unlicensed fonts

While comparing the price of the change versus just purchasing the font family, we found that the client hadn’t paid over $200k in licensing fees. They had a short grace period for making amends, however because they have 16 different apps, the time needed for development and regression testing was really long. A simple oversight wasted Development and QA effort, along with the opportunity cost of the newer features that had to wait.

Tips to avoid licensing issues

At The First Prototype, we don’t provide quotes or start development work without UI Designs, and we also offer services of our Product Designer. So, when another client came to us to build their app from scratch with beautiful UI designs, we analyzed them and asked them whether they had a license. But they didn’t realize that the website license for the font wouldn’t be sufficient for the iOS & Android apps, and they had to redo their website and the app designs, due to the high licensing cost of the font family they had chosen. Here’s some tips based on our experiences:

  • Always question the client about the font’s license before using a custom font, making it clear that the liability for the license is on them, unless they would like you to manage that.
  • Just because a font is available for use on your computer, and you can download it for “FREE” on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s free (or even inexpensive) for commercial use. It’s only free for personal use.
  • Over 1000 font families on fonts.google.com are all free for commercial use.
  • The popular Dafont.com has over 50k fonts that you can download, but only 400 fonts are “100% Free”.
  • If you’re trying to add a custom font in Xamarin, don’t forget to use the newer “embedded fonts” to simplify your development.

Font licenses is why you won’t see Android apps using the Helvetica font that is standard to iOS apps, so most developers stick to Roboto for a more unified experience. If you have any advice you would like to add, feel free to tweet to us, so we can add it here (and give you credit). Don’t forget to check out our other articles on NFC based mobile apps, Using Google Sheets as a backend, Learning Xamarin for mobile development.

Developers building things, on here to share knowledge. Featured blog for PlanetXamarin.com github.com/saamerm linkedin.com/in/saamer

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