The Upside to the App Store Police

Apple’s policing of its App Store may be heavy-handed and unpredictable, but the system is effective at keeping questionable apps away from iPhone users. And it’s a strategy Google may eventually be forced to adopt as its Android Market expands.

The Cupertino enforcers yesterday dropped Molinker, a prolific Chinese developer, for allegedly posting too many positive reviews of his own offerings. Molinker’s 1,000-plus apps were pulled after the iPhone photography blog iPhoneography alerted Apple to an inordinate number of five-star reviews written by users who reviewed only Molinker apps — despite the fact that many of the offerings were alleged knock-offs or simple photo logs. All but two of 44 reviews for Molinker’s “NightCam Pro,” for example, were raves, according to an iPhoneography reader who called attention to the developer, and none of the 42 positive reviewers had reviewed apps from any other developers. Molinker’s apps generally sold for between $1 and $5, apparently.

Predictably, Apple quickly banned Molinker’s offerings from its store, although the developer claims he has not been contacted by Apple and was unaware of any problems. That’s probably true, given Apple’s penchant for quick, decisive action in dealing with rogue developers.

But while Apple risks losing large numbers of developers if it doesn’t provide more visibility into its approval policies, Google’s laissez-faire attitude toward its storefront is sure to spur a surge of questionable apps from shady developers as Android gains steam, which in turn will result in some irate consumers. So both Apple and Google will have to find ways to placate their developer communities even as they protect their users from shoddy, overpriced apps.

Image courtesy of Jim Rees via Flickr.

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