Fake App Reviews Are More Common On iTunes, But Google Play Has The “Worst” Offenders

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Contrary to popular opinion, iOS applications have more fake reviews than apps on Android.

According to a new analysis of both app stores from Apptentive, a company which offers feedback and retention tools for developers, 55% of apps containing fake reviews were on iTunes, while 45% were found on Google Play. The company speculates that Google Play’s requirement of a Google+ user account could have helped diminish the fake reviews problem, because it requires a clearer notion of identity.

However, it’s probably fair to point out, too, that the iTunes App Store is still the marketplace where many developers choose to launch first, in an effort to establish some initial traction for their applications before porting those apps to Android – a process that can still be more challenging due to hardware and software fragmentation issues.

Also of note, while iOS apps had more fake reviews than those on Android, it was the Android apps that were actually the “worst” offenders, as determined by a metric Apptentive created in the pursuit of this analysis which it dubbed the “Reviewer Quality” Score. When it came to the 100 apps with the absolute worst Reviewer Quality, 80% of them were on Android.

The company came to these findings when developing its recently added “Love Score” metric for app developers, which is aimed at helping publishers learn what customers really think about the apps they use, and which ones they truly “love.”

To find apps’ “Love Score” and “Reviewer Quality” scores for the two app stores, Apptentive first limited the universe of apps it analyzed to those with over 50 reviews, as the volumes below that level aren’t sufficient, says CEO Robi Ganguly. “This represents 6% of the apps in the U.S. app stores,” he explains. “We then narrowed this more in-depth study to the 1,000 apps with the worst Reviewer Quality Score, as that’s where we have the strongest signals,” he adds.

There’s also an art to identifying these fake reviews. For starters, apps that have fake reviews tend to have a higher ratio of reviews to ratings. On average for the app store as a whole, around 20% of ratings also include a review. But on average, 35% of ratings for flagged apps contained a review – a 75% increase over the app store average.

Today, there are a number of services catering to the increased demand for these armies of fake app reviewers to boost an app’s rating, including from companies like BuyAppStoreReviews, BestReviewApp and AppRebates, for example, as well as more general purpose marketplaces like Fiverr, where thousands of people now offer reviews in exchange for $5. Plus, when you look through app reviews on a per-reviewer basis, you can spot those apps which are all using the same service, as they’ll have similar reviews from the same group of people in the app store.

fakeappreviews

For instance, the above image shows the similarity in brevity and phrasing in a select group of iOS apps.

It’s also fairly common for there to be fake reviews where the review text is identical, which usually indicates that people have created multiple accounts on the app stores in order to copy and paste their same text over and over in order to finish their task. (And those buying these fake reviews aren’t necessarily concerned about quality!)

In some cases, fake reviews will also target an app’s competitor, leaving negative reviews and 1-star ratings in an effort to drop its ranking in the charts and in search. However, this is less common. Roughly 60% of the ratings for the top 1,000 apps with fake reviews were 5-star ratings.

pie-chart-fake-reviews

Out of all the analyzed apps, iOS and Android alike, the Games category easily emerged as the one having the most fake reviews with 41% of the apps flagged for fake reviews being games. That makes sense, as it’s also the most competitive category. Besides “Other” (26%), the next most fake review-spammed category was “Photo & Video” (8%), followed by Utilities (7%), Entertainment (6%), then Lifestyle, Productivity and Education, all at 4%.

The problem has only been getting worse, as both the iTunes App Store and Google Play have made changes to their ranking algorithms over the past year, some of which increased the importance of app ratings.

On average, the top 1,000 apps with the worst Reviewer Quality Score had 409 ratings and 143 reviews.

“We think that when gaming happens, it happens in pretty significant volume,” Ganguly says.