It’s not just Wordle, the app store is a total mess
Posted onAuthorJohn S. WebbComments Off on It’s not just Wordle, the app store is a total mess
Apple’s App Store promotional page proudly proclaims, in large, bold print:
For over a decade, the App Store has proven to be a safe and reliable place to discover and download apps. But the App Store is more than just a storefront: it’s an innovative destination that aims to offer you incredible experiences. And a big part of those experiences is ensuring that the apps we offer meet the highest standards for privacy, security, and content. Because we have nearly two million apps – and we want you to feel good using each one.
I think for millions of users this statement is kind of a joke. The App Store is full of scam apps, fakes, deceptive and exploitative subscription fees, and bogus reviews that back it all up. You don’t need to look any further than this week’s Wordle kerfuffle for an example.
The issues are obvious to anyone familiar with the App Store and the larger app ecosystem, but perhaps less obvious to the casual user. And it’s worse, which is why iPhone users are tricked into downloading apps that aren’t what they think they are and paying monthly subscription fees for junk that often doesn’t work.
It doesn’t have to be, and it’s high time for Apple to clean it up.
Wordle was only the most recent example
Much has been said about the recent wave of Wordle apps appearing on the App Store. Online gambling has become a big hit, it’s free, and it’s and alone available on the net. So, several enterprising merchants decided to copy it entirely, including the name, and sell it on the App Store. One of them even had the nerve to charge a subscription of $ 30 per year!
It’s gotten a lot of press, largely because so many people in the tech press play and enjoy Wordle, and it didn’t take long for Apple to do the right thing and take them out. (If you want the real Wordle as an “app” on your home screen, we’ll show you the easiest way to do it.)
But Apple seems to have made this move only because it was receiving a lot of negative press. Copycat apps have been common in the App Store and have been for years. They are not even hard to find. The same goes for apps that try to trick you into believing they are something else.
If you’re buying a smart device or Samsung TV, you’ll likely be encouraged to download the Samsung SmartThings app, which lets you control your TV and other smart home devices.
If you search for it on the App Store, you’ll see plenty of apps that are explicitly designed to trick you into downloading them instead. One is called “Smartthings TV Remote Control”, another is “Smart Things for Smart TV”. They are free to download but have in-app purchases and generally require a subscription to actually be used as intended.
You can’t even rely on the top search result as the free genuine Samsung app because Apple luckily sold an add-on to one of these other apps to show up on this search result. “Smart TV Things for Sam TV App” is free but requires a $ 30 annual subscription to unlock all of its features, and it’s the first thing a person would see if they were looking for “smart things”.
We are not talking about a small individual developer with a simple pun, we are talking about the smart home platform of one of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world with copyrights and trademarks to galore. If Apple isn’t preventing scam apps from targeting them, what choice does the average developer have?
Counterfeit apps are one problem, but exploitative “junk apps” are another. A Kosta Eleftheriou’s recent Twitter feed gives only a real example of the breed. Create a simple app, something really basic (in this case, a simple volume booster), that often doesn’t work. Buy thousands upon thousands of fake five star app reviews. Make the app have a huge subscription cost ($ 10 per month to increase volume!) It’s very hard to cancel. Then sit down and collect the money.
Apple could fix this problem
Of course, the fact that they’re so easy for humans to spot makes it all the more frustrating that Apple, which always advertises the App Store as “safe and trustworthy,” seems reluctant or unable to do anything. whether to solve the problem.
It is the world’s largest tech company, valued at some $ 3 trillion. If I can find multiple apps violating Samsung’s SmartThings trademark in less than an hour, a group of just a few hundred people could definitely find thousands bad apps every week? Funding a group like this, even if they were well-paid employees and not third-party contractors, would be a rounding error on Apple’s earnings.
If humans can quickly notice that the same “users” with ridiculous names are giving multiple five-star reviews to several different apps in one day, day after day, surely an algorithm could detect and report bogus reviews very easily? Or that the newly created accounts suddenly look at dozens of apps they’ve been using for a few minutes each?
Apple doesn’t exactly tell developers what they can or can’t charge for apps, but the App Store review guidelines seem to ban copiers in Section 4.1, stating, “Submit your own ideas. We know you have them, so bring them to life. Don’t just copy the latest popular app from the App Store, or make minor changes to another app’s name or UI and pass it off as your own. As well as risking an intellectual property infringement claim, this makes the App Store harder to navigate and just isn’t fair to your fellow developers.
But if it’s anything other than a soft suggestion, I can find little evidence that Apple actually applies it systemically.
Apple is pressured into doing nothing
Solving these obvious App Store issues isn’t that hard for the world’s most valuable business. A team dedicated to finding counterfeits and branded counterfeits, algorithmic review of app reviews… that sort of thing relies on fake reviews to thrive, so fix that and the other is drastically diminished.
Apple also shouldn’t allow ads on app stores at all (the 30% discount isn’t enough?), But as long as it does, it could at least require ads to target terms. general instead of the exact names of competing applications.
Sara Kurfeß / Unsplash
But Apple has no economic incentive to fix this problem. Rather the opposite. No one is going to stop buying iPhones just because they were tricked into buying a scam app. A lot of users probably won’t even be mad at Apple, although they should: the company takes responsibility when it decides to be the only heavily organized app vendor for its platform.
But Apple is taking a 30% reduction. When a scam app siphons a hundred dollars or more a year from a poor jerk who doesn’t know how to unsubscribe from a basic QR code reader app (a feature built into iOS, mind you), Apple gets 30% ( or 15% after the first year).
It would be an insignificant amount of money for Apple to create an internal group dedicated to proactively find and eliminate fraudulent, copying, counterfeit and exploitative applications. But everyone he finds costs Apple money. And doing nothing doesn’t hurt sales, not when it’s so much cheaper to just market the App Store as so safe and trustworthy. Apple seems to view the trust and quality of the App Store as a marketing activity more than a real one technical Where a service problem.
Because if Apple took all of this seriously, surely we couldn’t so easily find so many bad examples? It’s easy for a business to do the right thing when it’s economically beneficial. But does the world’s most valuable company have the courage to do the right thing when costs their money?
I have written professionally about technology for my entire working adult life – over 20 years. I like to understand how complicated technology works and explain it in a way that everyone can understand.
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