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Every iPhone app developer goes through great pains to get their apps noticed and hopefully to break into the charts, which will result in increased sales. Rather than building great apps to entice buyers, the approach some devs take is to release crapware and then to dishonestly fill the App Store with five star reviews that rave about the brilliance of their apps, enticing many gullible users into buying them in the process. Whilst I understand the difficulty that all devs have in promoting their applications, Apple should draw the line at this sort of unethical behaviour.

But how is this even possible? You need an iTunes account to place a review and creation of an iTunes account requires the entering of personal details and credit card information.

Yes, you do need an iTunes account to place a review; however an iTunes account can be created quite easily using a promo code which EVERY developer on the App Store that has published applications can generate for their own applications. Personal details are not verified, so anything can really be entered. New email addresses are easy to generate. It wouldn't take more than a few minutes to generate each new iTunes account. This technique can currently only be applied to the US App Store.

Obviously, it's hard to prove which developers are doing this, however when it's done blatantly it's obvious. Take this developer for example, who has several applications on the App Store that all have suspiciously good reviews and ratings on the US App Store. Clicking through on each of the 'reviewers' reveals that each one has reviewed all of the developer's applications, giving five stars in each case and glowing reviews. The offending applications include My Othello and Reversi Extended (which look to be identical games).

Or course, I'm not saying these reviews were submitted using this trick; however the evidence is quite strong. Furthermore, these implementations of reversi are easily (IMHO of course) the worst on the App Store, yet have the best ratings (4 stars and 5 stars respectively on the US App Store, with 29 suspicious reviews each). The reviews are not true reflection of these implementations.

Hopefully Apple addresses this loophole, or the reviews in the App Store will become worthless. Thankfully, at this point it's only the US App Store that is affected; however, for most developers the US App Store is the most lucrative, so it might become difficult to compete with apps whose rating has been boosted using this technique. Apple, please close this loophole.

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Posted Sat 20 Jun 2009 by Michael Patricios

Tag: App Store

Comments

  • All the 'reviewers' review the 9 same apps, all his.

    What a d-bag.

    Still, I don't think he's getting any return on all that 'work'. If it really bugs you, click on Report a Concern and send Apple the clear evidence of his sock-puppetry. You could also report all the reviews as helpful=No.

    See something, say something.

  • Did you get your idea to 'complain' from the BBC or the other way around?

    The perils of five-star reviews

    Remember, date of posting isn't reflective of date of conception of idea.

    DB commented Thu 25 Jun 2009
  • @DB - nope, hadn't seen the BBC article, thanks for the link.

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