It doesn’t seem that hard to make millions of dollars on the App Store if you’re willing to charge people a “free” service and if you have the money to spend on obviously fake but seemingly effective reviews.
So one developer, who offers an app that claims to make your music louder, raised a cool $ 13 million – and somehow Apple introduced it several times in various countries – in less than four years.
AmpMe earns $ 13 million from the ‘free’ app
The bigger it is, the more obvious it becomes that the App Store is having problems. Apple tells us over and over again that its mobile market is “a place you can trust,” with real moderators checking the quality of every app. Still, the obvious scams continue to go through the cracks.
Another was pointed out by the developer Kosta Eleftheriou. It’s an app called AmpMe, which, as described in the App Store, “amplifies the sound of your music for FREE by syncing it with all your friends’ phones, bluetooth speakers, desktops and laptops!”
There is only one problem. AmpMe is not “free” at all. If you want to use it for more than three days, you will have to sign up for a subscription that automatically renews and costs a rather absurd $ 9.99 per week – or just under $ 520 a year. Surely no one would pay for that, right? Wrong.
Since making its debut in 2018, AmpMe has become the 135th highest-grossing app and has earned a whopping $ 13 billion in App Store revenue, according to the latest data from Appfigures.
The secret of AmpMe’s success lies in tens of thousands of fake reviews, says Eleftheriou. Its developers seemingly pay to be overwhelmed with five-star App Store ratings, so to unsuspecting customers who come across AmpMe, it looks like a quality product that works wonders.
The reviews are obviously fake because they are all published under meaningless names that follow a similar pattern. They are short – just one sentence, and often just a few words – and they are all positive. And because there are so many of them, they deafen the real reviews that give AmpMe a more accurate one-star rating.
If you can dig up the right reviews, you’ll find that AmpMe is nowhere near as useful as its App Store description suggests. Shocking!
“This is a joke. Don’t waste time,” wrote one reviewer. “Subscribing to this app is 4x more expensive than Netflix … I have no idea what the creators think they’re selling, but it’s not worth $ 40 a month.”
Not only does Apple continue to turn a blind eye to scams like this, but it actually promotes them – over and over again. AmpMe has, on several occasions, been featured in various App Store features, including “Apps We Love,” across a host of different countries.
This is not the first time this has happened. Apple was criticized last summer for promoting “slime simulator” apps in Australia that were also made just to scam App Store users, mostly kids. Some charged as much as $ 676 a year in subscriptions to unlock basic features, such as different colors of mucus.
Yet when Apple is under attack for its often frustrating App Store rules and high fees, it tries to justify them by claiming they are necessary to maintain a secure and reliable market free of scams and other nonsense.
“For more than a decade, the App Store has proven to be a secure and reliable place to discover and download apps,” reads one part of the App Store’s marketing that Eleftheriou pointed out. “The applications we offer adhere to the highest standards of privacy, security and content.”
Of course they are.
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