From time to time we’ve read comments about “shill” (dishonest) reviews on the iTunes App Store. The be honest, we’ve tended to dismiss them as simply sour grapes. But then…
A few days ago we got an unsolicited mail from a company offering to market our apps for a fee (nothing odd in that). However in addition to the basic package they also offered “An additional service … download + 5 stars + positive comment on Appstore (US accounts).” Essentially an offer to be fraudulent on our behalf.
One of their clients, also a camera app developer (the name appeared on their testimonials page), had over 30 user-reviews of a then very recent release in the App Store… all five star. In fact one user gave five stars with a comment along the lines of “I hate this app do not buy this app”.
As developers it’s very annoying to know that this happens, but it’s encouraging to find that a natural balance does seem to evolve. Now, a few weeks later once the marketing grunts have left the scene, that app has a far more realistic-looking set of user reviews and its sales performance is probably appropriate.
Life in Lo-Fi touched on this recently with mention of an app that had a disproportionate number of five star user reviews in the App Store. Readers agreed that it seemed odd, and that falsifying star ratings is unethical. It’s also unhelpful; someone commented that it would be great if Apple was able to to do something about this. That would be great (if unlikely).
So be smart: if you smell a rat, there’s probably a rat around.