It is probably not news for anyone who’s been in the AppStore business long enough… My friends, who develop iPhone games say that Saturday is a huge spike in downloads. Sunday is good too. If your app gets into the “new apps” list on Saturday, it’s likely to make some buck, even if it is going to be buried in the 500th spot in the “top downloaded apps” list eventually. MobileNoter is Business/Productivity software. Weekends and holidays are not good for us. Wednesday is one of the best days for sales for Business and Productivity. Luckily, our business model does not rely on bored people who would download and try anything for a few minutes of entertainment. Even though it’s not in any of the Top 10 list, people do find, download and buy our app.
Our app – MobileNoter just got approved into the AppStore. The approval process took one week. The current version is free, because we want to see how popular it is going to be, plus we’ll be adding some much needed features very soon. We’ll introduce paid version once the users start saying they love our app.
Here is the solution: hire this great PR firm – Reverb Communications, and they will create a storm of fake positive reviews, their interns and possibly employees will be posing as fake users and give your app 5-star ratings everywhere!
While this is not something new – shareware developers still do it sometimes on download.com and used to do it on tucows.com, but a glorious PR firm? Can’t they earn their buck in an honest way? Maybe they can, but we should not count on that.
Can Apple stop that? Yes, they can, because others have been doing that successfully. Stephen Kaufer, who is Founder & CEO of TripAdvisor (great site) describes in Founders At Work (great book) how those hotel owners and managers are submitting fake reviews all the time to push their hotels’ ratings higher. While Stephen doesn’t give all the details how they distinguish fakes, they obviously do a good job at it, at least from my standpoint.
Now, will Apple stop that? Well, they won’t. This is an entirely different story, let’s just say they’ve got other things to do. But we – developers can help here. It is relatively easy to write an AppStore crawler that will datamine the information about reviewers – the ratings they give, the apps they review, the texts they write, the dates of reviews, and so on. This program would easily identify most offenders in the same way the TechCrunch guys did manually. It is not a commercial project, of course – but it could be good for a student course work, or maybe even for graduate work. Anyone?
We just started shipping our MobileNoter for beta-testing. It’s not as exciting as a first sale, but it’s still a great day. This is our second product launch in 3 years. The first was AvailSuite – small business management software. The overwhelming feelings ignited by the first customer and the first sale are absolutely unforgettable.
We’ve learned many things from developing our first product. One of them is being quick. We spent more than a year working on AvailSuite before shipping it to the customers. It’s much shorter with MobileNoter. Another thing is that we are actively measuring customers’ interest in the product now. We do know that there are a lot of people who really want to access and use OneNote on their iPhones. There are even people who say that they would buy iPhone once there is OneNote software for it. Yay, we are helping Apple to sell more iPhones!
All of a sudden, Apple just pulled the plug on one of the worst spamming offender – Perfect Acumen. I didn’t review statistics on this one, but it is said to be (or, used to be) #3 developer in the number of apps in the AppStore. While Apple says the reason for the ban was that Perfect Acumen’s apps violated someone else’s copyrights, it’s a no-brainer that the infamous app developer got Apple’s attention precisely because of its spamming strategy.
Hooray to Apple. They should really go after Brighthouse Labs next.
I decided to check myself how bad AppStore spamming is these days. The biggest and known offender is Brighthouse Labs. A quick search confirmed that: they have – get this – 2058 applications in the AppStore. Well, they have only a dozen of real apps. There are 333 results for their different iLocate apps, while it should count as a single real app. Because they are all the same, just showing different kind of places. The search prominently returned me iLocate apps to find Hair Removal places (thanks, I don’t need that), Pet Sitting (don’t want to know what it is), as well as Afghan Restaurants (thanks, I hope I won’t need this) and other similar nice places.
Brighthouse Labs also got 447 SupaFan apps. I checked the one for Jerry Seinfeld, whose happy fan I am. I wish I didn’t touch that crappy app. It contains a very basic bio page, something called “chat” – not sure if it’s working, and something what’s supposed to be news. They charge $0.99 for this app, even though it provides zero value. Facebook, twitter, anything – you name it – will provide more interesting information for the fans than this useless app.
The iPhone development community has been loudly complaining about this practice. This is spamming at its purest: polluting the shelves of the AppStore with all those titles. But it gets even more interesting. Another known offender is Iceberg Reader. They got 1389 apps. Some of them are expensive. What do they sell? iiWeather for 1389 cities around the world? No! They sell ebooks wrapped into a reader, just like a flick is wrapped into a Flash player on the web. I check a couple of books. Bag of Bones by Stephen King is sold for $7.99. Amazon offers this in a paperback for the same amount. But the Kindle version is $6.39. OK, here we have The Gypsy Morph by Terry Brooks. I used to adore those Shannara books. Iceberg Reader “app” for The Gypsy Morph is $26.99. Hmm. Amazon paperback is $7.99. They are not just spammers, they are greedy spammers!
So we have thousands of clone apps, we have thousands of books sold as apps, what we have left? I made a quick review, and came with the estimation of about 10,000-12,000 AppStore applications that are not real apps. These are clones that can be (and should be) very easily packaged into just a few apps. This is how much we should trust the mindboggling 60K+ of iPhone apps number. It is totally overhyped and meaningless number. Hopefully, with the introduction of the in-app purchases in the 3.0 upgrade, Apple will eventually force these clones into oblivion.