updated 07:35 pm EST, Mon December 7, 2009
Fake reviews resulted in inflated ratings
Apple has banned the iPhone developer Molinker and removed the company's entire app library from the App Store, according to MobileCrunch. The action is reportedly a result of fake reviews posted by shills presumably associated with the developer. Molinker had established a total of 1,011 titles on the App Store, all of which have been pulled.
The scam was allegedly noticed by several of users who had posted single-star reviews amongst a plethora of five-star ratings. Another user, known as SCW, contacted the iPhone photography blog iPhoneography with a list of detailed observations.
SCW noticed that 42 of 44 reviews for the Molinker app NightCam Pro appeared to include illegitimate five-star ratings. Each of the shills had only reviewed Molinker apps, adding evidence to the allegations of foul play. Similar discrepancies were observed across the developer's entire range of apps.
"This is absolutely fake, misleading & pushing false info to customers to buy their apps," SCW wrote. "One app 'ColorMagic' is even on apps front page as an App Store 'Staff Favorite' yet the reviews majority are FAKE (203) 5 Star & (91) 1 Star."
iPhoneography and SCW both sent an e-mail to Phil Schiller outlining their observations and concerns. Although the executive did not immediately respond to the inquiry, all of Molinker's apps were quietly removed from the App Store. "Yes, this developer's apps have been removed from the App Store and their ratings no longer appear either," Schiller later confirmed.
Although Apple has been criticized for maintaining tight control over the content approved for the App Store, many users and developers have voiced frustration over inflated ratings. It remains unknown if the company plans to pursue similar actions against others, as suspicious review trends have been noticed with separate developers and several PR firms.