In the old days, downloading applications used to be a rather hit-and-miss situation—sometimes, you’d get legitimate, valuable software, and others, you get a virus masquerading as a viable app. Or, of course, there are apps that were simply useless. In 2021, however, you’d have thought that such issues have been mostly eradicated by regulated stores such as the iOS App Store, or Google Play Store.
As it turns out, however, there appears to be a serious scam problem within the App Store—according to Kosta Eleftheriou, the original creator of the Apple Watch keyboard app, FlickType. Eleftheriou has been sharing his thoughts on the Apple’s perceived lack of enforcement of App Store policies via Twitter, particularly those who that govern scam apps. These include practices such as software cloning (an infringement upon IP laws), along with fake reviews and five-star ratings.
“The App Store has a big problem”
The App Store has a big problem
You: an honest developer, working hard to improve your IAP conversions.Your competitor: a $2M/year scam running rampant.
— Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) January 31, 2021
Eleftheriou main complaints centre around the wide availability of these scam apps, which threaten the business of legitimate apps such as his own apps. For example, he references an astronomy app that comes highly rated on the App Store—despite the presence of many warnings within the review section about the app’s sketchy practices.
Here’s the thread:
Up to now, I’ve been in the “Apple *wants* to do the right thing” camp. My viewpoint is starting to change.
How to spot a $5M/year scam on the @AppStore, in 5 minutes flat:
— Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) February 6, 2021
The developer has been critical of Apple for allegedly allowing apps with falsely-inflated ratings to pop up on search results in the App Store—while allowing false reviews to be highlighted in individual app listings. Speaking to The Verge, he explained:
“In particular now with the App Store, which is my main concern, the problem has grown to such an extent that having the rating and review system is making it worse. It gives consumers a false sense of security and a false idea that the app is great as youre entering it through a glowing App Store page with raving reviews.”
In essence, the complaint that Eleftheriou has here mainly comes down to supposed inaction on Apple’s part. Ultimately, as gatekeepers for the App Store, the role that the company plays cannot be overstated—particularly for iOS, where it’s your only option is to download apps.
This scam has been operating from Indonesia for years, although “operating” is giving it too much credit. The app was last updated in 2019, so they are literally sitting and collecting the stolen money.@Apple is doing *nothing*. I am furious.
— Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) February 6, 2021
For now, Apple has yet to official respond to the developers complaints, although some of the offending apps referred to by Eleftheriou have since been taken down. However, this might just be a stop-gap measure; the developer told The Verge that to truly fix the issue, the App Store is due for an overhaul—one that weeds out malicious parties, and ranks software accordingly.
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