Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Top PDF Reader in the Mac App Store

Stephen Warwick (via Kosta Eleftheriou):

An investigation into seven different apps on the Mac App Store, including the number one PDF reader in the U.S., has found that all of them are orchestrated by the same Chinese developer using fake reviews and command-and-control exploits to try and target users.


For example, an app could determine whether it was in Apple’s review process, changing its UI so as not to fall foul of any App Store guidelines before unleashing popups asking for money on unsuspecting users. […] Finally, multiple spammy versions of the same app with slight variations were uploaded “in order to gain as much market-share as possible in some niches.”


[These] apps would push users to make purchases using deceptive windows offering purchases of trials or subscriptions with no close or cancel button in sight, leaving the user no option but to click okay and possibly making a purchase.

Alex Kleber:

The developer is well known of abusing the Appstore review system under the account of Polarnet Limited were previously reported by other Mac Appstore vigilantes few months ago. At that time, Apple took action and removed many reviews of this developer.

Alex Kleber:

Apple removed all 7 developers’ accounts mentioned in the article.

Jeff Johnson:

I’ve found proof that the apps SmartPlay for Safari by Best App Limited and StreamPlay for Safari by Xiaobo Wang are actually from the same developer.

Needless to say, these are among the top apps in the store.

Rafael (via Kosta Eleftheriou):

two apps of mine almost only get 5-star reviews. However, recently a competitor of mine started writing fake reviews in the review sections of these apps to lower the score of my apps and even uses these reviews to tell people that there were better apps out there, with features that match exactly the features of his apps.

I contacted Apple about this issue and they deleted one review, that was obviously fake and contained bad language. However, they said they could not do anything about the other fake reviews, because these reviews did not violate their guidelines about App Store reviews.

Marcos Tanaka (via Federico Viticci):

Had to request an appeal to the App Review Board. I asked three times for a screenshot or concrete evidence of this supposed hidden functionality in my app, but the reviewer only answered with vague sentences such as “money gambling functionality”.


Update (2023-03-23): Jeff Johnson:

Last year I attempted to raise awareness of an App Store developer apparently committing fraud, both by using multiple fake developer accounts and by posting fake ratings and reviews in the App Store. Recently I noticed that the same app SmartPlay for Safari is still in the Mac App Store and still a top download, currently in the 100 top “free” list in the United States. This app is not really free, however. It has a paywall on first launch, as noted by many of the app’s reviews. (The reviews that aren’t fake, that is.)

1 Comment RSS · Twitter

Niall O’Mara

Yeah depressing but not surprising.

I actually reported (maybe 7 to 10 years ago) a well known game publisher for clearly having fake 5* reviews that were all of a near identical format but I wasn’t surprised that nothing came of it - they were big enough to even be featured in Apple keynotes.

Revenue is king.

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