Around the same time, Apple was touting huge App Store revenue growth this week, the app store developer and reviewer said. Kosta Eleftheriou brought to light what appeared to be another App Store scammer hiding in plain sight. On Twitter, Eleftheriou documented earnings from a music sync app called AmMe, which claims to boost your music volume by syncing it across multiple devices, including friends’ phones, Bluetooth speakers, and computer speakers. AmpMe, he discovered, was charging $10 a week for this basic service, which he was promoting on the App Store through fake reviews.
The AmpMe iOS app doesn’t require a subscription to use some of its features, but if you want to sync your music to other devices – the main reason users probably downloaded the app in the first place.
Eleftheriou Noted this offer was priced at what he called “an absurd $10/week (~$520/year)”. The subscription also renews automatically, as do most in-app subscriptions. And while Apple makes it easy to sign up and maintain a subscription, subscription cancellations can only be made from the Subscriptions section of your account page, accessible from the App Store or the app. iPhone Settings. You cannot undo within the app itself.
AmpMe hadn’t tried to fool users about its prices, at least. The sign-up page clearly stated that its free trial was offered for just three days and would then be followed by a $9.99 per week subscription.
But where the app broke App Store rules was in the way it marketed itself to potential customers.
AmpMe had bought a ton of fake reviews, as evidenced by its extensive list of five-star ratings associated with absurd names. These names – like Nicte Videlerqhjgd or Elcie Zapaterbpmtl, for example – sounded like someone who had just smashed buttons on a keyboard. But the critics were sure to have left positive comments, like “It’s so good !” Where “super helpful” Where “No other music apps needed!” »
(Interesting way, those same reviewers left rave five-star reviews on other applications as well, and all on the same day! It’s suspicious!)
The fake reviews gave the app an overall rating of 4.3 stars on the App Store, making it a legit and useful music syncing tool. Meanwhile, real reviews — where legitimate App Store customers have complained about outrageous prices, basic features, or obvious fake reviews — have been drowned out by spam.
Apple hadn’t taken action on this deceptively marketed app for years. And to make matters worse, he had even promoted it several times via the editorial collections of the App Store, remarked Eleftheriou.
The conclusion he draws is that not only is Apple being lax in hunting down App Store scammers, but it may actually be discouraged from doing so due to the revenue potential of fraudulent apps. (The only other possible conclusion here is that Apple is simply incompetent when it comes to protecting the App Store for consumers…which isn’t exactly pretty either.)
Citing data from Appfigures, Eleftheriou notes that AmpMe generated $13 million in lifetime revenue from the App Store, after Apple cut.
Another firm places the figure even higher. Apptopia told TechCrunch the app has earned $16 million since it began monetizing through in-app purchases in October 2018; $15.5 million came from the App Store and another $500,000 came from Google Play. The majority (or 75%) of in-app purchase revenue comes from consumers in the United States. To date, AmpMe has had 33.5 million lifetime installs, 38% of which are in the United States.
In a response provided to TechCrunch, AmpMe disputed some of the claims made.
The company said its users don’t pay $520 a year — what a $10-a-week subscription would be if users remained subscribers. Instead, AmpMe said that among its paying users, its average annual subscription income is around $75. This would indicate that users are enjoying the free trial and then canceling the subscription after some time. AmpMe also said that internally it reinforces its belief that its pricing is transparent and its opt-out procedures are easy.
However, the company didn’t have a good answer as to why its App Store listing is filled with fake reviews, choosing instead to blame it on an anonymous third party.
“Over the years, like most startups, we’ve hired outside consultants to help us with app store marketing and optimization. Greater oversight is needed and that is what we are currently working on,” said a statement sent by an anonymous AmpMe representative. (They had signed the email “The AmpMe Team”.)
Additionally, the company said it is responding to these recent comments by releasing a new version of the app with a lower price.
“We always adhere to Apple’s subscription guidelines and work continuously to ensure their high standards are met,” the email read. “We also respect and appreciate community feedback. Therefore, a new version of the app with a lower price has already been submitted to the App Store for review.
This version has since gone live and sees the weekly subscription reduced to $4.99 from $9.99.
Today, Eleftheriou tells us that it looks like a manual scrubbing of fake reviews is underway.
As of 11 a.m. Monday, he documented that the app had 54,080 reviews. By Tuesday at 9 p.m., after AmpMe saw little bit just of wrong hurry, the number of app reviews had fallen to 53,028. As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, the number of reviews dropped again to 50,693. But the app’s overall rating was unaffected. in a significative way. This may be because the removed reviews are the ones submitted by the fake app store users instead of the ones where the app received a five star rating but no review text or review name. ‘is visible. This means that the cleaning process will make it less obvious that the app has bought fake reviews.
Perhaps also of interest is AmpMe’s CEO: Canadian tech entrepreneur Martin-Luc Archambault. Its Wajam software has become adware has already been investigated by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC), and convicted of violating Canadian internet privacy laws by collecting user data without consent. He also used several methods to evade detection by antivirus software, reports claims at the time. When the OPC announced its findings, Archambault claimed that the data of the Canadian users in question had been destroyed and that Wajam had sold its assets to a Chinese company. Over its lifetime, the adware has been installed millions of times, according to the OPC report.
In other words, this doesn’t sound like someone who would be averse to buying fake reviews!
AmpMe did not respond to further follow-up questions beyond its initial statement, and Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
To date, AmpMe has raised $10 million in venture capital funding, through Crunchbase The data.