iPhone App Store reviews: Here's the problem

User ratings are easy to assign when an app is being deleted but the process is fairly convoluted if the user wants to keep the app on the phone

It's not new to hear gripes that the iPhone's App Store review system is broken, but two recent incidents illustrate just how troublesome the user-powered system can be.

Hot off the press, Spotify's new iPhone app is already being met with mostly one-star reviews -- 1000 of them compared to 400 five-star ratings, by I4U News' estimate. Many of the negative ratings have little to do with the app's functionality. Instead, users are griping that a premium subscription, which costs about $10 per month, is required to stream Spotify's millions of music tracks.

A year ago, Apple tried to correct for baseless negative reviews by requiring people to download the app first. Unfortunately for Spotify, people can download the app for free but can't try it without a subscription, effectively opening the door for more negative reviews than usual. Any free-to-download, subscription-based app could face the same problem.

But a bigger issue is at hand: User ratings are easy to assign when an app is being deleted -- something you'd do if you didn't like the product -- but the process is fairly convoluted if the user wants to keep the app on the phone.

When deleting an app, a pop-up ratings box appears for easy thrashing. By comparison, reviewing an app you plan to keep requires visiting the app store, clicking on the section for user reviews, clicking "Write a Review," signing in to iTunes, and finally submitting a rating and review. This is not a system that favors positive feedback.

It's not surprising, then, that the system is ripe for cheating. MobileCrunch noted an example] last month, in which employees of a PR firm were writing positive reviews for their clients' iPhone games. The firm, Reverb Communications, denied that the reviews were fake, but acknowledged that employees were reviewing the games "based on their own game play experience." A Business Week story notes the extremes to which developers go to get recognition through positive reviews. (See also "Online User Reviews: Can They be Trusted?")

A better user review system would create reputations for writers. Maybe users who submit only ratings, without text, should have less impact on an app's overall score. And instead of listing user reviews chronologically, how about giving top priority to the most prolific writers? A more advanced system could even include social features for voting user reviews up or down.

Otherwise, the App Store's review system may be doing more harm than good.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags iPhoneiphone apps

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?