I felt the need to write this article after reading reviews for an app that is clearly an app designed to scam money out of patrons who are unfamiliar with Apple’s rules for writing iOS apps. (No link, I don’t want to feed the trolls as it were)
The app I am talking about is Fast Tools Pro. AppShopper.com also wrote an article warning people about this app, telling them that it doesn’t do what it advertises.
One thing I do that most people probably don’t is spend a little time with the reviews written by patrons of the app in the App Store. More importantly, I check the authors of 5 star reviews very carefully. Especially early after the release of the app.
Case in point: Fast Tools Pro. This app goes for $0.99 and is a Universal app meaning it is designed to work for both iPhone/iPod touch and iPad.
Looking at the number of stars the app has from it’s reviews along is very misleading. The App Store is showing it has 3 stars which makes it appear like an average app. Not great, but not awful either.
Expanding the star review shows it has twelve 5 star reviews and thirteen 1 star reviews. This early on, those 1 star reviews are very important. First though, I want to talk about the twelve 5 star reviews. I mean surely, if 12 people find the app worthy of 5 stars, it has to be pretty good. WRONG!
If you dig just a little bit into those 5 star reviews, you will find that they are by folks that are possibly paid to place those reviews.
Each review has some great words about the app, but take a closer look at each of the reviews other reviews. I’ll list several here (not necessarily from the screenshot):
- ford47: Fast Tools Pro, iBouquiniste, Autopilot Game, Space Blast+, What The Photo? Free, and Neon Glow FXs.
- Cordie Mussel: Fast Tools Pro, iBouquiniste, The Fleas, Kids Email, What The Photo? Free, and Marche.
- David.Cohen: Fast Tools Pro, iBouquiniste.
- treed35: Fast Tools Pro, iBouquiniste.
- taylorMim: Fast Tools Pro, Marche.
- Roman Churin: Fast Tools Pro, iBouquiniste, Neon Glow FXs.
- haddin: Fast Tools Pro, iBouquiniste, Neon Glow FXs.
All the above apps were given 5 stars in their reviews. Notice a pattern here?
There are companies out there that advertise that they will get you a top 10 spot in your category and even a top 10 spot in the overall list on the App Store. The above 5 star review look like they came from such a marketing strategy.
These reviews are most likely paid reviews and do not reflect the views of actual patrons.
What I do when looking at reviews in the App Store is to look at the “Most Critical” reviews. Now with “Free” apps, this is difficult because everybody and their brothers post reviews since it costs nothing to download the app and post the review.
However, when an app costs anything, even $0.99, reviews tend to be more realistic. At least the ones that were not paid for. Say you see a string of 1 star reviews. Checking other reviews these patrons have reviewed will show a variety of apps/products and a variety of star reviews. Not just 5 star reviews for just apps.
In the case of apps that are scamming apps like Fast Tools Pro is, you will find the 1 star reviews warn other possible patrons that the app being reviewed is either “false advertising” or “Warning” or even “Don’t waste your money”. It’s a safe bet that if there are a bunch of reviews like those, that the app is by a developer out to scam it’s possible patrons, not a legitimate app.
Just look at my previous post about an app called Microsoft Word 2012. When that app was still in the App Store (it was apparently removed by Apple not long after it was released), it was initially sold for $9.99 and reviews pretty much were all 1 star with text like “This is just a tips app!” and “You can’t even write text into a document!”. They later changed the description of the app in the store to give the impression that it was a hints/tips app. Still selling it for $9.99. They later changed the price to Free. Then the app disappeared from the store.
Apple has always said that it has a no refunds policy on App Store purchases. They do make exceptions, but basically the best advice to give a potential patron to the App Store is: “Buyer beware”. This really goes for both the iOS App Store and the Mac App Store, but the Mac App Store doesn’t have as many scammers as the iOS App Store.
Maybe due to the Mac App Store forcing the developers to use things like Sandboxing, this makes writing an app to try to trick someone into buying your app too much of a pain to develop.