App developer and scam app hunter Kosta Eleftheriou’s latest discovery is a real doozy, an iOS app that refuses to function before giving it at least a 3-star review in the App Store. While the UPNP Xtreme app – which claimed to let users stream video to their TVs – now appears to have drawn, we were able to verify that it generates the App Store review box as soon as it opens. You can’t close the rating box, nor can you tap the one or two star ratings, Eleftheriou said. We’ve verified this behavior, but some Others users report that they were able to close the dialog box or leave a lower rating.
This is just the latest scam app unearthed by Elefheriou, who is waging war on them after his own Apple Watch keyboard app, FlickType, was overtaken by expensive apps with fake reviews. Eleftheriou says Apple has removed more than 100 apps as a result of its reports, but it is worrying that the multi-billion dollar company does not notice these scams during the App Store review process.
If you think you can trust App Store ratings, you haven’t paid enough attention.
This is the iOS * system * review prompt, not a custom look-alike.
The worst part? This trick is EXTREMELY easy for any developer to do, and not limited to this app.
– Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) May 25, 2021
The behavior of the UPNP Xtreme app directly contradicts one of the best practices Apple mentions on the developer site, which states that developers “should prevent a request for a review from appearing immediately when a user starts your app.” In general, developers are allowed to request a review up to that point in a 365-day period.
Apple’s review process has been under particularly intense scrutiny lately due to Epic Games’ lawsuit against the company. Central to the dispute is the 30 percent commission that Apple takes on many App Store payments and in-app purchases. Apple states that it needs the committee to run the App Store and create a safe environment for users. But that argument gets undermined pretty quickly when obvious scam apps can slip through Apple’s review process.
Apps like the ones discovered by Eleftheriou don’t just harm customers who end up downloading scam software and can be tricked into paying for hard-to-cancel recurring subscriptions. It also harms legitimate developers dealing with apps willing to play dirty to get the good reviews it takes to move up the App Store.
Eleftheriou filed a lawsuit against Apple earlier this year, arguing that it is exploiting its monopolistic power over the iOS app to make money at the expense of app developers and consumers.