Monday, October 22, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Apple Pulling High-Grossing Scammy Subscription Apps Off the App Store

John Koetsier (via Hacker News):

“It seems they are automatically pulling any and every non-big-name app that has a high IAS [in-app subscription revenue],” Albert Renshaw posted on Facebook.

The trial button is the key.

“They’ve been pulling apps and rejecting apps that have a massive button that says ‘X days free” without the price inside that button,” another developer said. “People don’t read the fine print and that’s who they’re after. Before they were lenient but with the negative publicity they’re strict as hell now.”


Today, most of the apps mentioned in my original story are now no-longer available.

Why didn’t Apple enforce its guidelines from the beginning? Or, afterwards, notice apps with suspicious revenue?

Previously: Weather Alarms Scam.

Update (2018-10-25): John Gruber:

I can see how a new app with a malicious IAP scam might slip through review, but once an app is generating tens of thousands of dollars a month, it ought to get a thorough review from the App Store.

Update (2018-10-29): Apps Exposed:

I have been investigating these apps for a year and reported them to @Apple but they haven’t taken any actions so far, letting this scammers making hundreds of thousands of dollars. Please take a careful look at the list below[…]

It’s a long list.

Update (2018-11-19): David Barnard:

The App of the Day on iPad today is one of Apalon’s apps (thread). Their paywall has the price and trial duration far removed from the trial button and a quarterly subscription (preying on people who don’t know what that means? And/or can’t do math?).

App Review told us that in Weather Up we had to put the price on the button. So, next time Apalon submits an update to that app they’ll presumably be forced to do the same. But you’d think Apple wouldn’t feature apps that aren’t current in compliance with App Review guidelines

It’s also App of the Day on iPhone. And I almost forgot… it’s one of the apps recently caught selling user location data. For all Apple’s talk of protecting users, I still can’t believe they allow apps to sell location data much less feature those apps

I hadn’t used that app in a while, so I decided to check it out & figure out what Apple saw worth the honor of App of the Day. Alerts promoting other apps. Full screen adds every couple minutes. Subscription page pops up randomly. Sells user location data. “Creedon Republic”?!

I can’t think of a bigger than seeing that specific app featured a few days after @Weather_Up_ was released. I’ve tried so hard to create a great experience around weather maps, respect user privacy, add unique features like Event Forecasts, and not trick/annoy users.

Ryan Jones:

Good summary of what we mean when we say “scam apps”.

It’s not one thing; it’s a combination of willfully barely nefarious tactics that Apple’s walled garden should catch or fold up shop. Any one complaint looks petty by design, but the whole picture is a clear scam.

Update (2019-02-04): Lukas Stefanko:

What is this app rating?

Developer created tricky app icon to make potential users believe it has over 4 stars.

Purpose of the app is to trick user into activating 3 day trial for basic photo editing app. If user forgets to cancel, it costs him €49.99/week.

Update (2019-02-26): Ryan Jones:

I’ve heard and seen tiny evidence that Apple formed a new team to proactively hunt the App Store for bad behavior and demand fixes, with actual consequences.

Finally, years of work by @drbarnard, @cribasoft, me, others, plus @gruber’s help.

Update (2019-05-16): David Barnard:

$260/yr for a coloring app that has a $25/yr option?! If Apple truly cares about App Store customers, they‘d auto-cancel tricky subscriptions like this when they find them. If people really want to use the app, they’ll subscribe again when given the option.


"Why didn’t Apple enforce its guidelines from the beginning?"

The answer is in the 30% they get.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” - Upton Sinclair

Apple takes 30% of all those scammy IAS payments. Yes, they take a credibility hit, but only if people pay attention, otherwise they just take their share of the money.

[…] Apple Pulling High-Grossing Scammy Subscription Apps Off the App Store, Rejected From the App Store for Emoji in Screenshot, Out of […]

[…] Apple Pulling High-Grossing Scammy Subscription Apps Off the App Store, App Stores No Longer Listing All In-App Purchases, Is There Hope for the Mac App Store?, The […]

[…] Apple Pulling High-Grossing Scammy Subscription Apps Off the App Store, Weather Alarms […]

[…] Previously: How to Game the App Store, Apple Pulling High-Grossing Scammy Subscription Apps Off the App Store. […]

[…] Apple Pulling High-Grossing Scammy Subscription Apps Off the App Store […]

Stay up-to-date by subscribing to the Comments RSS Feed for this post.

Leave a Comment