Apple Bans a Thousand Apps Over Review Fraud


A story that began 10 days ago with a blog posting at iPhoneography and a letter to Apple VP Phil Schiller has ended with Apple (s aapl) banning prolific developer Molinker from the App Store. The developer has been charged with review fraud (not to mention poor grammar).

Molinker developed a lot of travel apps, guides, currency conversion tools, translation software, as well as photo editing software. A few reviews from NightCam Pro can be seen above. Like other Molinker software, the reviews are good…a little too good.

A reader of iPhoneography, SCW, thought in the above example it was “a little odd that 42 of 44 U.S. reviews are poorly written & that all users have only written reviews for either All Molinker photography apps…or the same two apps.” Apparently, short, effusive, English-as-second-language reviews are common for Molinker apps. SCW goes further, too, asserting that it is likely the all-positive reviews are derived from apps redeemed with developer promo codes.

Seeing as Molinker has promptly disappeared from the App Store, this could very well be. As for the developer’s response, Appfreakblog contacted the company and received this reply:

Actually, we do not know what’s wrong so far. We had contacted Apple for such sudden changes, hope we can get quick response and actions from Apple.

Well, it appears Molinker got its wish, at least in terms of “quick response and actions,” though it’s not the first company to suffer a mass banning. Content aggregator Perfect Acumen was banned along with 900-plus apps in August for alleged copyright violation and other complaints. Going forward, it’s likely there will be more mass bannings if allegations regarding the use of promo codes and astroturfing reviews are found to be true.

While some will argue this is yet another “black eye” for the App Store, possibly with Schiller doing another interview defending the review process, maybe some new restrictions on promo codes, does it really matter? The App Store, backed by more than 60 million iPhone OS devices and counting, remains the place to be for developers of mobile applications. A thousand bans here or there just don’t add up to much next to that.



Hell I just wanna comment on you guys running another article calling the App store evil so I too can get a “staff comment”! Come on, sock it to me!

Baby Food Grinder

Good result. According to the developer of one of my fave iPhone apps, he keeps getting bad false reviews. This is a problem and Apple have taken steps to fix it. As customers we will see the benefits as the best apps rise to the top.

Jason Harris

I suppose the question this raises is, what’s the point of having an app review process if these sorts of dubious companies manage to squeeze 1000 apps thru?

Jay Hughes

Once again, God Jobs has decided peremptorily to deny applications for users to download to THEIR phones.

What Apple should have done is to delete existing comments and block future comments so that no promotional or negative comments could be posted.

What Apple seems to forget is that the telephones they sell are no longer their property and if an owner wishes to install anything they should be free to do so without Jobs having anything to do with them except to cull his excessive commission from sales. Little wonder users decide to jailbreak THEIR telephones so they can exercise THEIR rights independently of Jobs and Apple.

Now that Apple has some real competition in the cell field the consumers can now vote with their pocketbook and buy products that don’t suffer from spontaneous combustion, exploding screens and melting cases and don’t require the completion of non-disclosure agreements in order to access warranty.


Bravo Apple! Anyone that does not agree with Apple’s method of protecting we consumers, can go buy a Droid. Go for it and don’t look back. And don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!


I’m with Gazoobee. Good for Apple for responding to the problem and fixing it. And please, can we give the “evil app store” stories a rest? What’d the NYT article say, 100,000 apps, 10,000 submissions per week, a billion downloaded on 60 million devices? And we get a couple of boneheaded rejections a month and all of two developers quitting, and the App store is broken. Riiiight….

It ain’t perfect, like most things in life there is always room for improvement, but there is no way you can call it evil or broken or anything short of successful.

Josh Pigford

I’m seriously confused. How is anybody reading this article as Charles saying the app store is “evil”?

This article is about as unbiased and unopinionated as news reporting gets.


I think it was established long ago that most people don’t actually read the stuff they comment on.

Anyway, I would worry a bit about overzealous banning when promo codes lead to good reviews just because the app is good, rather than astroturfing, because I imagine dealing with Apple to get reinstated wouldn’t be fun, but all in all its good to see this happening.


How is this a “black eye” if Apple reacted rather quickly and fixed the problem? I’m so tired of hearing whining complaints about the app store on tech sites. I don’t mean to pick on this one article, but how could Apple responding to a complaint about a spamming, scamming “developer” in a rapid fashion by kicking a thousand apps out of the store be anything but good? How can it indicate anything but good intentions on their part?

The constantly pushed story angle of the app store being evil in some way is just biased reporting. A parallel example would be if Car& Driver magazine constantly published articles from picky auto mechanics, whining about their problems with car A, B, or C, without also publishing (and in fact publishing a lot more of), how absolutely fantastic most actual owners of the cars in question find them and how wonderfully designed in general they actually are.

It just give a distinct prejudicial “spin” to the news to always be talking about what some minor developer thinks about Apple’s “real” intentions are in regards the app store. Especially when it’s based on either nothing at all, hearsay, or opinion. I’m totally sick and tired of just hearing the developers side of the story on this site and on most others as well.

Josh Pigford

Please, for the love, read before you comment. Charles said:

“While some will argue this is yet another “black eye” for the App Store…”

“Some” being the operative word. Charles isn’t saying he is arguing that. He’s saying that inevitably some people will cry foul over this and say Apple is screwing themselves.

Charles Jade

Yeah, the quotes around black eye are like finger quotes… actually, I think that would be more amusing to use in the future.

As for the App Store review process, I’m pretty much on the side of not caring when developers quit or something like this happens. However, I do find it intriguing that Apple appears to care enough about criticism of the review process that Phil Schiller pops up in an interview every few weeks.

Finally, in regards to this particular example, I’d be shocked if Molinker was the first to figure out the promo code method of astroturfing. One could then question how it is that such a method of questionable reviewing could have been allowed in the first place, let alone tolerated for so long.

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