Mobile app developer Kosta Eleftheriou has a new conversation that goes beyond software development: taking on what he sees as a violent fraud problem that destroys the integrity of Apple’s App Store.
Eleftheriou, which created the successful Apple Watch keyboard app FlickType, has in the last two weeks publicly criticized Apple for lax enforcement of the App Store rules that have allowed scams, as well as apps that clone popular software from other developers, to run violently. These apps enjoy top billing in the iPhone market, all thanks to glowing reviews and sterling five-star ratings that are mostly produced, he says.
So far I have been in the camp “Apple * wants * to do the right thing”;. My point of view is starting to change.
How to find a $ 5M / year scam on @AppStore in 5 minutes:
– Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) February 6, 2021
“It is surprising that more people do not know about this. The extent to which this has been going on and is currently going on is absolutely thought-provoking, says Eleftheriou The Verge of the extent of fraud he says occurs daily in the App Store. “Especially now with the App Store, which is my biggest concern, the problem has grown to such an extent that making the rating and rating system make it worse. It gives consumers a false sense of security and a false idea that the app is great when you enter it through a glowing App Store page with fantastic reviews. ”
His vocal complaints, which have attracted the attention and support of countless other app developers in the iOS community, underscore the growing tension between Apple and the software vendors it depends on. It comes at a time of unique monopoly control and legal challenges from competitors related to the company’s management of the App Store, which is estimated to have earned more than $ 64 billion last year.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.
The issues Eleftheriou addresses are interlocking all that stem from what he says are inconsistently enforced App Store rules and lazy moderation. It’s not just apps that try to raise money away from consumers under false pretenses by using exploitative subscription services. There are also fake reviews and rankings that can be purchased, and a broken algorithmic ranking system that helps these apps to float to the top and take a look at real paid apps developed by small teams or developers, says Eleftheriou. Letting it continue, he adds, is a platform that Apple does not actively politicize unless it is an issue that gets media attention or involves one of Apple’s current rivals such as Facebook or Fortnite producer Epic Games.
Eleftheriou first detailed his personal experience with the App Store scam late last month in a Twitter thread, where he explained how his FlickType app was maliciously copied by many developers who built malfunctioning versions of the software and charged huge subscription fees, only escaped with it due to strong App Store reviews and high five star ratings which he claims are fake.
Eleftheriou says that its primary competitor, a scam called KeyWatch, charged users $ 8 per week and raised more than $ 2 million a year, according to Appfigures analysis, despite the app not working properly. He says that KeyWatch even advertised the software using its promotional video – with his name still attached.
The App Store has a big problem
You: an honest developer, who works hard to improve your IAP conversions.
Your Competitor: A $ 2 million a year scam that runs rampant.
– Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) January 31, 2021
Eleftheriou has since embarked on an online crusade to bring more attention to the subject, run in part by Apple who chose to take down some of the apps he has highlighted, but let the developers behind those apps continue to publish to the App Store. Many other developers have also begun to play with their own experiences, including notable Apple critics such as Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson.
Some of these critics, including Hansson regarding the company’s Hey email client, have previously accused Apple of abusing and overburdening developers by using the App Store’s standard 30 percent cut of app downloads and in-app purchases. These critics see the scam as a further proof that Apple benefits from these developers and therefore does not take the right steps to moderate the platform and enforce the rules.
The subscription scams that Apple allows in the App Store are really bananas. While busy hunting for legitimate developers for their pounds of meat, they let these hyenas roam the savannah without resistance. https://t.co/NpsjjWC0CY
– DHH (@dhh) February 8, 2021
Apple has not yet responded publicly to Eleftherious’ claims, although the company has removed KeyWatch and some of the other scams he has pointed out in the past week. But the problems are systemic, says Eleftheriou, and nothing less than an overhaul of how the App Store ranks software, measures reliability and rages out bad actors will fix the problem. Until then, Eleftheriou says he continues to sound the alarm.
“I’m not going to quit. “Every time I see a scam, I call them out,” he says. “I just can not wait for there to be a real change from Apple to make me feel that I should concentrate on what I should concentrate on, which is app development.”
He says that a competing app store on the iPhone can help solve many of these problems. This is the same argument that Epic has used in its lawsuit against Apple for removal Fortnite. Epic and CEO Tim Sweeney have requested alternative marketplaces on iOS, as well as the ability for apps distributed through the App Store to use their own payment systems and not give Apple 30 percent of each transaction. After Epic distributed its own payment system in the app within Fortnite last year, Apple removed the app for breaking the rules. Epic is now suing both Apple and Google.
In an ideal world, competition tends to sort out many things, whether it’s pricing or enforcing rules. Competition is like creativity; you get all these new ideas, and hopefully the best will come to the top, ”says Eleftheriou. “The other way would be for developers to publicly tell their stories as far and as broadly as possible. The more users understand that this is a problem, the more pressure there will be on Apple to act. ”
Eleftheriou adds that he is disappointed with Apple’s silence on the matter, even if it only gives him additional energy to continue speaking out. “It’s not just about shopping. I think Apple must, at the very least, say something, acknowledge the problem and that they are working on it, “he says. “Just being silent if it’s just reinforcing this perception for consumers that App Store reviews and ratings are trustworthy. They are not.”