Skip to main content

The Strange Case Of Apple, Dash And App Store Review Manipulation

You may have heard of the popular iOS app Dash, before last weekend I hadn't, however it's popular enough that it's removal from the App Store and subsequent developer's complaints were interesting enough to get the media interested.

Without evidence to conclusively prove things one way or another I'd say it's impossible to establish the truth here. Either Apple has followed through on its policies around developer behaviour and penalised a successful developer for something he hadn't done and then refused to back down out of stubbornness; or the developer is a compulsive liar.

The crux of the matter is whether the expelled developer had been manipulating reviews or whether he was ensnared in a weak piece of governance enacted by Apple in the registration of developers.

Apple claims the developer was guilty of several years of review manipulation across multiple apps and development accounts. The developer claims that the account responsible for the abuse was one he paid for as a favour to a friend, but because Apple links accounts by credit card was erroneously tied to his own.

App Store information suggests that there has been no manipulation of reviews for the Dash app, whilst apps posted by the second account have been heavily boosted by fake reviews.

To me that supports the developers view, but as I say, that isn't evidence one way or the other.

And let's not even begin to discuss the legitimacy of linking different accounts by tying them to the credit card used to pay for them.

Were this another platform the developer would be free to distribute his app via alternate methods. Being iOS that's not possible. Inherently iOS is a closed shop and if Apple says you can't sell to customers you're done for.

For customers who have bought the app it seems that they will be denied further upgrades and even the ability to download their purchases onto a new device or after restoring a wiped iOS device.

I've raised concerns about the closed shop that is the App Store many times in the past. It does seem strange that Google will potentially be prosecuted for bundling its apps and Play Store on Android devices, even though customers are free to acquire apps from many different sources; whilst Apple is free to dictate terms to its customers and developers with no possible alternative solution.

If that were not the case, this would be a non-story. But it isn't, so it is.