While casually browsing the AppStore I noticed an intriguing app called “Flash Video Exposer” which, at the time, was #1 Top Paid app in the Romanian iPad App Store. It was also in the top 30 paid apps in the iPhone App Store. Problem is, all user reviews unanimously cry that this app is a scam, and a pretty expensive one actually (8 euro).
Curious to learn how it was possible that an app whose users call a fake can still be in the App Store, I started looking for more information.
It turns out that this is a resubmitted version(under a minor name change) of an app that had been previously removed from the store (we can’t tell if at Apple’s initiative or simply at the developer’s). It used to be called “Flash Video Expose” and, as such, managed to receive many complaints, dedicated blog posts about the scam, and even YouTube reviews exposing it. What matters is that now it’s back, with a minor name twist and a different “developer” listed, selling the same fake features for an even higher price. And, according to the download charts and product reviews, it works.
Don’t bother looking for it in the US App Store; probably having learned its lesson, the developer didn’t submit it there; since the US App Store is under thorough scrutiny from the IT press, popular blogs and, obviously, Apple staff, when you want your scammy app to fly below the radar you should avoid it.
How well does such a scam do? According to AppAnnie, pretty well – it is the most popular/grossing Utility app in tens of App Stores. True, revenue from minor App Stores is significantly smaller than it would have been from the US store but, with a bit of luck, if this scam remains undiscovered for a couple of months, it should bring its author a few hundred thousands in revenue, if not millions of dollars.
If you ask me what Apple could have done to prevent this, my answer is simple: they need to add a visible & easy to access contact form inside iTunes App Store for app complaints. As it is now, people don’t have a clear method to notify Apple of App Store issues such as scams, copyright infringements or ill-behaved apps. Sure, adding this would be a logistic nightmare and likely affect the reputation of the App Store ecosystem, but it’s necessary and way overdue.
Until then, blog posts such as this one and Tweets are the only means we have of letting Apple know that they should do more to protect their users.