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Apple Declares No More Uninformed Reviews, App Store Ratings Jump

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Once upon a time, anyone who wanted to could post a review of any app available in Apple’s (s aapl) App Store. You could just drop in on the top paid apps list, prepare a number of scathing single-star reviews based on the outrageous prices of each app, and possibly make a significant dent in their overall rating (especially if you were looking at some of the international stores, where there aren’t nearly as many ratings as there are in the U.S.).

It was misleading, it was petty, and it was stupid. Luckily, Apple did away with most of that nonsense when they limited the ability to review to people who’ve actually purchased an app. What remained, however, were all the spurious reviews made prior to the ban, with no way for users to distinguish between the two, and still affecting the app’s cumulative score.

Well, as of this week, those reviews are no more. Apple has gone through and pruned all of the reviews made by non-customers, according to MacRumors. It’s obvious when you look at the number of reviews for an app like Super Monkey Ball before and after Wednesday, which have gone from 4,197 to only 3,710. As a result, the average rating on a number of apps have gone up.

The move is long overdue, and I’m glad Apple did it, although I wonder how they determined which reviews were legitimate and which were by people who hadn’t downloaded the app. I suppose they do have access to the purchasing history of everyone with an iTunes account, in which case it makes sense why it took this long, since that seems like a lot of work. Hopefully now the reviews represent a more accurate reflection of what customers are getting, but it’s still far from a perfect system, and could stand further improvements, like weighting reviews according to latest version numbers. Apple seems to be committed to making it work, though, so we’ll see what the future brings.

9 Responses to “Apple Declares No More Uninformed Reviews, App Store Ratings Jump”

  1. robert

    A huge problem is the prompt for review upon deletion. Dunno which genius thought of that. So the people who dislike an app are prompted to vote, while those who like it won’t ever vote or won’t do so for a long time.

  2. What concerns me, after this step is taken, is the remaining issue of people rating an iPhone app poorly because it doesn’t work on their iPod Touch, for example.

    In my limited understanding (as I have yet to buy an iPhone but am a Mac user) there are some differences in technology with first generation iPhones, 3G, and Touch. So, to see an application made for a 3G unit wouldn’t it be unfair to blast off a poor review and rating because it fails to work properly on a Touch? However, I’ve read many 1-star reviews that do just that. It’s for the iPhone but the reviewer is angry it doesn’t work on a Touch and it’s THAT complaint they rate an otherwise good app poorly… they’re rating it outside the scope of what it was designed for.

    Unless I’m missing a nuance here, I think Apple should also qualify not only customers prior to review… but also what unit they’re basing a review on.

  3. They should do this for the iTunes store too but just limit the reviews to people who actually have the album in their library. Genius collects all that info and sends it to Apple anyway so it’s not like it would be unfeasible.

  4. They could do with adding the “did this review help?” thing from the iTunes part of the store. I regularly go through the reviews when I purchase something and rate them up or down depending on what the contents are and I notice the better, more informed ones do float to the top over time.

    It helps to get rid of those people that think they are “reviewing” something by simply typing in “It’s great!” or “rocks!” or some such useless garbage.

  5. robertsoakes

    About bloody time. In their very slow App store overhaul, hopefully they will get around to changing their ranking algorithm too. I’ve been rather underwhelmed on the overall quality of iPhone apps. It would be nice to see some of the more expensive/higher quality apps being highlighted rather than iFart mobile.