Apple has a serious problem on their hands […] the proliferation of scamming apps.
Gilbert talks about Anton Sinelnikov’s many rip-offs, clearly designed to con buyers into thinking they’re downloading the likes of Plants vs. Zombies, Temple Run, Tiny Wings and Angry Birds, and he interviews developer Paul Haddad about solutions to the problem. Haddad argues Apple needs to clamp down on scam apps, not send the developer any payment, refund those who bought the app, and
curate the Top 100 list beyond automating it based on sales.
It’s not entirely clear what the last of those means; the clarification in the article is:
This would dramatically decrease the number of copies that are sold, while at the same time covering Apple’s bases while they wait for an official takedown notice.
My assumption is he means removing potential scam apps from the charts. I’m not sure that would always help, since innocent apps and games could easily get caught in a takedown spat, such as the one Edge found itself in a while back. However, if Apple can figure out a way to more clearly identify scam apps (copied/recoloured logos, clearly infringing IP, names obviously riffing on popular apps, and so on), I’d be all for that, because otherwise the App Store will end up edging closer to the dross you find in the Android Market.
Gilbert’s conclusion is particularly interesting:
[The] original purpose of screening applications was two fold: security and quality. With one of these missions fulfilled, Apple should start paying attention to the second.
I recall Steve Jobs saying something about App Store curation being required to ensure good apps aren’t surrounded by amateur hour. But amateur hour is precisely what’s happened. The harsh reality is you don’t get half a million great apps for any platform—when the numbers get really high, the majority of releases are crap. But what sets Apple’s store above others is the top tier of apps and games—both from large companies and indies. Generally, buyers can trust that what Apple recommends and, most often, what’s in the charts, is worth downloading*. As Gilbert hints, should that trust be broken, the App Store, developers, users and Apple alike all suffer. Ultimately, whatever Apple’s doing right now regarding its app review process simply isn’t enough. However much time each app is being given needs to be increased, and part of the approvals process must include some kind of search regarding various types of IP (names, characters, icons, imagery). Even in such scenarios, scam apps will still get through, I’m sure, but it’s one thing to have the odd bad egg sneak on to the App Store, and it’s another entirely to have dozens of the things stinking up the place on a regular basis.
* That’s not to say apps and games not in the charts aren’t any good—I regularly cover good apps that haven’t charted highly or at all, such as in my Hidden Gems feature for iGamer. But the point is those apps people are actively encouraged to buy via Apple or its algorithms must not break trust.