It seems it’s not that difficult to make millions of dollars on the App Store if you’re willing to charge people for a “free” service and you have money to spend on blatantly fake but seemingly effective reviews.
That’s how one developer, which offers an app that claims to make your music louder, has collected a cool $13 million — and somehow been featured by Apple multiple times in various countries — in under four years.
AmpMe makes $13 million from a ‘free’ app
The bigger it gets, the more it becomes apparent that the App Store has problems. Apple tells us over and over again that its mobile market is “a place you can trust,” with real moderators who review every app for quality. And yet, obvious scams continue to slip through the cracks.
Yet another has been highlighted by developer Kosta Eleftheriou. It’s an app called AmpMe, which, according to its App Store description, “boosts the sound of your music by syncing it with all of your friends’ phones, bluetooth speakers, desktops and laptops for FREE!”
There’s just one problem. AmpMe isn’t “free” at all. If you want to use it for more than three days, you’ll have to sign up for an auto-renewing subscription that comes at a rather absurd $9.99 per week — or just under $520 a year. Surely no one would pay for that, right? Wrong.
Since it made its debut in 2018, AmpMe has become the 135th highest-grossing app and raked in a whopping $13 billion in App Store revenue, according to the latest data from Appfigures.
But … how?
The secret to AmpMe’s success is tens of thousands of fake reviews, Eleftheriou says. Its developers seemingly pay to be flooded with five-star App Store ratings, so to unsuspecting customers who stumble across AmpMe, it looks like a quality product that works wonders.
The reviews are blatantly fake because they’re all posted under nonsensical names that follow a similar pattern. They’re short — just one sentence and often just a few words — and they’re all positive. And because there are so many, they drown out genuine reviews that give AmpMe a more accurate one-star rating.
If you can dig out the real reviews, you’ll find AmpMe is nowhere near as useful as its App Store description suggests. Shocker!
“This is a joke. Don’t waste your time,” one reviewer wrote. “This app’s subscription 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 these, but it actually promotes them — time and time again. AmpMe has, on multiple occasions, been highlighted in various App Store features, including “Apps We Love,” in a whole bunch of different countries.
It’s not the first time this has happened. Apple was criticized last summer for promoting “slime simulator” apps in Australia that were also built just to scam App Store users, mostly children. Some charged as much as $676 a year in subscription fees to unlock basic features, like different slime colors.
And yet, when Apple is under attack for its often frustrating App Store rules and hefty fees, it tries to justify them by claiming that they’re necessary to maintain a safe and trusted marketplace that’s free from scams and other crud.
“For over a decade, the App Store has proved to be a safe and trusted place to discover and download apps,” one reads piece of App Store marketing highlighted by Eleftheriou. “The apps we offer are held to the highest standards for privacy, security, and content.”
Of course they are.