Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How to Game the App Store

David Barnard:

I’ve been pestering Apple for years publicly and privately about the manipulation and outright scams going on in the App Store. Apple has made some progress here and there, but overall Apple’s strictness in some areas and hands off approach in others has disproportionately rewarded bad actors while stifling conscientious developers.


So, let’s talk about how developers are gaming the App Store and why it matters to the future of the platform. Any one of these tactics might seem somewhat bland individually, but when tens of thousands of apps deploy multiple tactics across many categories of apps, the impact can be measured in hundreds of millions of users and likely billions of dollars.

Previously: Apple Pulling High-Grossing Scammy Subscription Apps Off the App Store, Weather Alarms Scam.

Update (2018-11-30): Zac Hall:

The latest example is a rather sophisticated and devious trick used by an app that claims to read your heart rate through your fingertip using Touch ID. In reality, the app (which is currently on the App Store) uses your fingerprint to authorize a transaction for $89.99 while dramatically dimming the screen to fool you.

Dave DeLong:

Meanwhile, I’m in Day 6 of being “In Review” just because I added a single auto-renewing subscription to my app. #NotAmused

Update (2018-12-03): Guilherme Rambo:

This app had a list of Apple’s IP ranges, it was probably using them to change its behavior during app review

Update (2018-12-04): Ben Sandofsky:

Apple yanked over 700 apps from the Chinese App Store that were using rollout-like SDKs to avoid app review.

Previously: Apple Rejecting Apps That Use Rollout.

Lukas Stefanko:

Multiple apps posing as fitness-tracking tools were caught misusing Apple’s Touch ID feature to steal money from iOS users. The dodgy payment mechanism used by the apps is activated while victims are scanning their fingerprint, seemingly for fitness-tracking purposes.

John Gruber (tweet):

None of this is news, but it continues to surprise me that Apple hasn’t cracked down on all of these scams, especially the ones that trick people into paying for subscriptions. That’s just outright theft.

Update (2018-12-06): Dave DeLong:

Finally movement on my app. Got rejected for 2 reasonable things and 1 thing.

Apparently, the cost of my app after a free trial period isn’t explicit enough.

I’m not sure my eyes can roll any further back in to my head

One of the things I should’ve mentioned about that button (and the rest of that screen) is that I literally copied it from another app on the store. Same text, same layout. Just changed the name and the price of the IAP for my app.

Update (2018-12-12): Luc Vandal:

Let’s all celebrate @screensvnc 8th birthday with yet another silly metadata rejection from App Store Review.

Scam people all you want but don’t you dare show a Mac in your app preview so customers can understand how Curtain Mode works! This is fucking ridiculous.

Update (2018-12-23): Cabel Sasser:

Here’s some garbaggio: “Shield for Safari”. Claims to be “security without VPN or Proxy” which means it does nothing, reviews are hilarious and mostly copied from Firefox, app terms say it’s for “entertainment purposes only”. Monthly subscription of course 😣

(Don’t worry, I will let Apple know about this, and I’m confident they’ll take care of it. In the future wouldn’t it be awesome if there was an easy way to report “App Is Garbaggio” — maybe in this ••• menu — because I’m sure collectively we could clean out so much of this!)

Update (2018-12-27): uniqueguy263 (via Jeff Johnson):

A scam app that pretends to be the setup for Echos is #6 in Utilities in the App Store

It looks like Apple has finally removed it. When I last checked, it was still #6 and had 8K ratings averaging 3.7 stars.

Casey Johnston:

Apple pitched the walled garden as a way to enforce quality control, to ensure its ability to keep providing great customer service, to keep making its loyal followers happy. All of those things seem to be unraveling now.

Update (2018-12-28): Evgeny Cherpak:

People assuming that paid app with many good ratings has many satisfied users.

I won’t name names but while researching how I can market my apps I found a service that would provide good reviews.

How it works?

Set price to free
Pay for downloads + ratings
Raise the price

Update (2019-03-06): Dave DeLong:

This time the @AppStore has rejected my update for the sin of having a subscription.

You know, the subscription that’s been in my app since the 1.0 version.

This wasn’t just a rejection of the IAP screen. The reviewer said it was an inappropriate usage of subscriptions altogether and wanted me to take subscriptions out of my app

Update (2019-03-28): Apps Exposed:

So this was the reason why I started looking through the App Store and found out that small/big time scammers were doing massive schemes.


Fun fact: Apple has featured Badoo on different stories in Today section on App Store. Support the spammers Apple! Good job guys!

Update (2019-03-29): Jeff Johnson:

3 months later, all of the scam apps that I mentioned in this blog post are still in the crap store.

At the time I also reported the scam artist to Apple Product Feedback.

Update (2019-04-11): Jeff Johnson:

I blogged about this App Store scam artist, and also reported to Apple.

All of the scam apps are in the App Stores, and now a new one has just been released in the Mac App Store.

Meanwhile, Apple rejected my update last week.

Apps Exposed:

10 days ago after we exposed 53 apps Apple removed 15 apps (by the same Chinese group), yet again they are back on App Store.

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