Apple Needs to Get More Aggressive with Scam Apps

Recently in Australia, Apple featured some scam apps in one of their App Store promotions. It’s not surprising that even App Store marketing folks can get confused by scam apps.

Last week a non-geek friend called me about his iPhone. He wanted my opinion about what podcasting app to buy because he “heard” that “most apps are scams now”. The whole point of users dealing with the limitations of a single app store is to avoid that kind of nonsense, and the rest of the world is now waking up to the fact that Apple has let a pack of wolves into the walled garden.

I understand that policing the App Store with its millions of apps isn’t easy, but whatever they are currently doing, it is not enough. Putting new laws and regulations aside, I think the failure to clean up the App Store will lead to a crisis in confidence by Apple’s customers, and once more people start thinking like my friend, the App Store is in real trouble.

App Store Scams Need to End

Last week the FlickType developer sued Apple for, among other reasons, failing to police App Store scams. I think Apple could do a better job at this. I’ve heard from several app developer friends bemoan the existence of copycat apps made to confuse their consumers and steal the sales. Most recently, John Gruber covered this with the Widgetsmith rip-off.

Apple hasn’t said anything about this publicly, but since they insist on an approval process for apps, it seems only fair that they check to make sure an app is not shamelessly ripping off someone else before they approve it. This isn’t one of those things where there are competing interests in good faith. These copycat apps aren’t an attempt to make a competing product. They are attempts to confuse the customer to buy the wrong thing and take away sales from the developer that made the thing in the first place. It’s been going on for years, and I think it is time for Apple to get better at this.

iOS Customer Preferences

9to5 Mac linked to this Creative Strategies report concerning App Store user preferences. There are a few points of note.

Many Users Rely on Google to Find Apps

Only 16% of the surveyed iOS users exclusively rely on the App Store to find new apps. I view this as an indictment of the App Store. For years it was terrible. I remember when I would search for “Tweetbot” by name and the app would return five twitter apps, none of which were Tweetbot.

I think Apple improved the App Store (a lot) last year with the new iOS App Store (and they look to do the same this year on the Mac). Nevertheless, the die has been cast. It’s going to take a while for users to start trusting the App Store again. If you’ve given up on the iOS App Store, I recommend you give it a closer look. It’s a lot better than it used to be.

Users Still Don’t Like Subscriptions

54% of iOS users surveyed said they prefer a one-time payment over subscriptions. Frankly, I expected that number to be higher. While nobody is particularly happy about it, I do think users are coming to understand that there are instances where the subscription model makes sense. I’m also encouraged how some companies can avoid the subscription model and even achieve a sort-of upgrade pricing. The Omni group comes to mind. With the most recent version of OmniFocus, they did not require a subscription but instead, through some clever programming, give owners of the prior version a 50% discount. This is the closest thing I’ve seen to upgrade pricing on iOS, and I hope other developers consider it.

Apple Bends, Slightly

Reports are coming out that Apple has softened its stance toward third party iPhone application developers. It has begun to approve video streaming applications (bet I’m not the only one waiting for Qik) and Macworld reports Apple is even letting applications with private API calls through (temporarily at least). While this is great news for developers, I suspect Apple’s laser focus on the user experience will prevent it from ever opening the floodgates like other mobile providers are doing. That is a good thing for those of us who like things to work. Still, it is nice they seem to be backing off some of their more jack-tastic moves of late with respect to the App Store. At this point they’ve had long enough to sort out the deluge. Let’s hope this is the first step.