More AppStore scams – Flash Video Exposer

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.

Ce trebuie sa faca Apple pentru Computer Science

Am citit azi via Twitter un articol de pe Acm.org intitulat “What Did Steve Jobs Do for Computer Science?” care, evident, converge spre a critica lipsa de implicare a Apple in comunitatea academica si, mai ales, faptul ca Apple, spre deosebire de Intel, Microsoft si altii, nu dau si ei un banut cercetatorilor din universitati. 

Poate sunt eu cam acid, dar genul asta de articole imi inspira o greata profunda, trezindu-mi in minte imaginea unor pusti de pe langa blocuri care ma trageau de maneca sa le dau si lor un leu. Nu pentru ca le-ar fi fost foame, nu pentru ca aveau nevoie de bani (erau copii spalati, imbracati bine, etc), ci doar pentru ca ma vazusera imbracat decent si s-au gandit sa-si incerce si ei norocul. Poate-poate pica de o ciocolata (a picat).

Cam asa imi pare si tonul autorului, despre ale carui realizari academice sau de cercetare in computer science nu gasesc referinte online. Apple sta pe o tona de cash si nici macar nu sponsorizeaza vreun concurs stiintific sau vreo conferinta. Niste  magari – auzi soro, sa aiba ei atatia bani si sa nu ne dea si noua din ei.

Chiar asa, mai Apple. Dar se poate? Voi aveti bani si nu vreti sa ne dati si noua de o ciocolata?

Nu conteaza ca Apple cumpara cu bani grei startupuri cu tehnologie de ultima ora rezultate din cercetari de top in Computer Science si nu numai, motivand astfel cercetatorii sa puna osul si sa inventeze si ei chestii tari si utile lumii (nu doar articole pe hartie). Nu conteaza ca are programe speciale de reduceri si oferte pentru mediul academic, sau ca produsele sale sunt parca special concepute pentru utilizarea in universitati (unix based, pre-dotate cu multiple limbaje de programare si compilatoare, portabile, accesibile). Pentru piscotarii autori de articole de umplutura, conteaza doar ca Apple nu da bani la conferinte si nu sponsorizeaza concursuri. Faptul ca de cand a aparut AppStore-ul si, dupa cum spunea cineva de la Forbes, the apps revolution, tinerii sunt mai interesati ca oricand de a invata programare, sperand sa devina si ei milionari din aplicatii, este de asemenea irelevant. Conteaza doar ca Apple are bani si noua nu ne da nimic.

Nu zic ca cercetarea academica este rea, dimpotriva. Pana la urma, ea ne-a adus calculatoarele, Unix-ul, internetul si altele. Google, Microsoft, Intel, HP si altii fac foarte bine sa sponsorizeze cercetarea universitara si sa dea ceva inapoi comunitatii care i-a construit. Dar Apple a fost creat de un tip care nu si-a permis sa mearga la facultate si a reusit sa hackuiasca un pic sistemul educational intrand pe sest la cursuri si de un hacker care a invatat harware si software in timpul liber, lipind tranzistori acasa. De la inceputuri, cultura Apple a fost de hackerdo-er si nu de thinker, iar contributia lor la Computer Science este una indirecta, prin intermediul produselor si nu a sponsorizarilor. Si nu cred ca poti invinui vreo companie pentru ca vrea sa dea bani celor care, in opinia lor, ii merita cu adevarat. Sunt banii lor, e problema lor. I-au castigat pe drept (spre deosebire de WallStreet) si au dreptul sa aleaga ce fac cu ei. Iar articolele de genul celui comentat de mine ar merita ignorate (si sincer habar nu am de ce nu am facut-o  – poate doar pentru ca aveam chef sa mai scriu ceva pe aici).