Why Apple won't clean up App Store user reviews

The ratings scandal that led Apple to purge 1,000 iPhone apps underscores why the App Store user review system needs repair.

The ratings scandal that led Apple to purge 1,000 iPhone apps underscores why the App Store user review system needs repair.

To recap, iPhoneography reader SCW accused app developer Molinker of writing hundreds of phony five-star reviews of its own products. SCW wrote a long letter to Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, and Apple removed all of Molinker's apps.

The problem is that this action was reactive. For a store that's approaching 300,000 apps, responding to individual complaints is honorable, but not reliable.

Molinker's reviews aren't the first case of App Store review fraud. According to a MobileCrunch] story from September, employees of one developer's PR team, Reverb Communications, were caught penning reviews of their clients' products. Reverb said the staff wrote reviews on their own time, and that the company only takes clients whose products they like anyway, but to say those reviews are authentic is a stretch. A better system is needed.

Build social features

Rabid Apple fans are legion (so are their detractors, but that's a different story). These are the people who would power a more interactive App Store, allowing reviewers to vote up or bury the work of their peers. Currently, you can go into iTunes and mark reviews as helpful, offensive or off-topic, but the system for doing so is buried under an uninviting "report a concern" button. You also can't report a review directly from the iPhone, slowing down the whole process. In addition to social features, I'd like to see a system that rewards reviewers who write more and cover apps from a wide variety of developers.

Why Apple won't

Aside from Apple surely wanting none of my advice, I don't think Apple will build a system like I've described because it's not in the company's nature. iTunes has been devoid of homemade social features since day one, and I don't see that changing. Sure, the company gives you the tools to use other social networks--you can tell Facebook and Twitter users what you're listening to in iTunes 9, for instance--but there's little evidence that Apple wants to build social interaction tools of its own.

Apple's made great strides in improving the App Store, with the Genius for apps and the addition of search keywords, but user reviews are still lagging behind on features. Let's hope for a change, however unlikely.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Appleiphone app storemobile phonessmartphonesiPhoneapp storeiphone 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

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?