Wednesday, April 13, 2022

IAP Bait-And-Switch Apps

Jeff Johnson (Hacker News):

Top Mac App Store dev abuses Free with In-App Purchase for bait-and-switch apps demanding upfront payment, not free in any respect.


This developer has 9 apps in the Mac App Store, all of which seem to have the same “business model”: free to download, with In-App Purchase, but the first time you open the app, it demands an upfront one-time purchase, otherwise it doesn’t work at all.

No trial, no subscription.


We are told that App Store protects consumers from bad developers.

You can just read the reviews in this thread to see that this is not true, and the reviewers often wonder why Apple allows this false advertising.

The worst part about this scam is that it works! This obscure Mac developer has 3 of the top 95 grossing apps in the Mac App Store.

It sure seems like, rather than protecting the customer, the App Store is enabling this sort of behavior. Outside of the App Store, it’s hard to get a good Google rank for a new app that’s unremarkable. And it won’t get a lot of favorable coverage from the media, YouTube, or podcasts. But in the App Store, it has instant legitimacy because it’s been approved by Apple, and it can use fake reviews to climb the charts, to the point where people find it because it’s top-grossing.

Edoardo Vacchi:

This app literally locks your machine until you pay the fee. It is almost ransomware.

Alex Kleber:

Top #1 sold macOS app US Store abusing reviews. Review customer name pattern is the same for all 5 stars reviews.

Christopher Atlan:

Their Winmail app uses my app name in the subtitle😤

Alex Kleber:

Update: Apple removed all reviews of this developer but the apps are still available. So in Apple judgment is just fine to abuse the Mac Appstore reviews in order to trick the Apple users to download and buy your apps.


Update (2022-04-13): Jeff Johnson:

iMore has a statement from the developer: they’ll add free trials to all their apps, despite claiming they’re doing nothing wrong now.

Also, they threatened to sue iMore in a now deleted tweet. And a dev whose ™ they infringed.

Update (2022-04-14): Jeff Johnson:

Here’s another developer using the business model of “free” apps with first launch paywall. Top 34th and 90th grossing in the Mac App Store.

I’ll let the App Store reviews speak for themselves.

Coincidentally, this developer has “open in browser”, Google Docs, and Dropbox apps, just like the other developer.

Update (2022-04-19): Jeff Johnson:

Mac App Store scam alert:

Screen Mirror to TV & Device by Raymond NG

#89 Top Free, #67 Top Grossing

Developer’s web site is completely anonymous.

Rated 3.5 out of 5, but nearly every review is 1 star.

Update (2022-04-21): Jeff Johnson:

These 2 apps in the iOS App Store with identical names also have identical privacy policies. I mean word for word.

The 1st app has an old Facebook page as “App Support”. And incredibly, 227,400 user ratings!

Almost blank web site with a privacy policy that looks stolen from another company

The reviews contradict each other, which suggests fakery. I’m inclined to believe the reviews that say “scam”. ;-)

Not updated in 3 years, not sure why MAS top grossing.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

Some of those apps... I don't get why anyone would install them at all. Is it money laundering?

When I started collecting apps in the Apple Store, I'd see two that seemed similar but their description listed different features. And I believe they had a different developer (or website) name. In those days, I thought the purchase fee was cheap so I bought both. But it turned out, they were the same App, sold under two different names. The developer said it was "common practice" - like selling the same product in two different wrappers (takes more space on the grocery store shelf, reducing the shelf space for competition).

One could claim that is borderline deceptive. Until it happens to them. Then it's pretty clear you've been bamboozled.

I think selling the same product in different packaging and pretending they are different is illegal in the US. At least I thought J&J lost that case Re: contact lenses.

Leave a Comment