Around the same time Apple was forecasting its big App Store revenue growth this week, developer and noted App Store critic Costa Eleftherio Brought to light by what appears to be yet another App Store scammer hiding in plain sight. on Twitter, Eleftherio documents earnings for music syncing app called AMPME, which claims to boost the volume of your music by syncing it across devices, including friends’ phones, Bluetooth speakers, and computer speakers. AmpMe, they found, was charging an incredible $10 per week for this basic service, which it was promoting on the App Store through fake reviews.
AMPME iOS app Some of its features don’t require a subscription to use, but if you want to synchronize your music with other devices – that’s mainly because users are likely to download the app in the first place.
elephtherieu famous The price for this offering was what he called “an absurd $10/week (~$520/year)”. Subscriptions also auto-renew, as do most in-app subscriptions. And while Apple makes it easy to sign up and subscribe, subscription cancellation can only be done from the Subscriptions section of your account page, which you can access from the App Store or the iPhone’s Settings app. You cannot cancel within the app itself.
AmpMe wasn’t trying to trick users about its pricing, in the least. The sign-up page explicitly stated that its free trial was only offered for three days and that subscriptions would be charged for $9.99 per week after that.
But where the app violates the App Store’s rules is how it markets itself to potential customers.
AmpMe bought a lot of fake reviews, as evidenced by its large slate of five-star ratings associated with redundant names, For example, these names – such as nicte vidlerkhzgad or elsie zapaterbpmtl – sounded like someone mashed up the buttons on the keyboard. But reviewers have certainly left positive feedback, such as “It’s great!” or “super useful” or “No other music apps needed!”
(interestingly, These same reviewers left bright five-star reviews On other apps too, and all in one day! that’s suspicious!)
Fake reviews gave the app an overall rating of 4.3 stars on the App Store, making it seem like a legitimate and useful music syncing tool. Meanwhile, genuine reviews — where legitimate App Store customers complained about outrageous pricing, basic functionality or outright fake reviews — were drowned out by spam.
Apple had not taken any action on this deceptively marketing app for years. And to make matters worse, it even promoted it several times through the editorial archive of the App Store, Eleftherio pointed.
What he concludes from this is that not only is Apple lax in hunting down App Store scammers, but it may actually be discouraged to do so because of the earning potential of scam apps. (The only other possible conclusion here is that Apple is just inept when it comes to keeping the App Store safe for consumers… which really isn’t even a good look.)
Quoting data from Appfigures, Eleftherio notes that following Apple’s cut, EmpMe has generated $13 million in lifetime revenue on the App Store.
Another firm puts this figure even higher. Apptopia told Nerdshala that the app has made $16 million since it began monetizing via in-app purchases in October 2018; Of this, $15.5 million came through the App Store and another $500,000 via Google Play. The majority (or 75%) of in-app purchase revenue has come from consumers in the US; To date, AmpMe has seen 33.5 million lifetime installs, of which 38% are from the US.
In a response provided to Nerdshala, AMPME disputed some of the claims being made.
The company said its users aren’t paying $520 per year — what a $10 per week subscription would add if users kept subscribing. Instead, AmpMe said in its paying users, its average annual subscription revenue is about $75. This will indicate that users are taking advantage of the free trial and canceling the subscription after some time. AmpMe also said that, internally, it reaffirmed its belief that its pricing is transparent and that its opt-out process is easy.
However, the company didn’t have a good answer as to why its App Store listing is filled with fake reviews, opting instead to place the blame on an unnamed third party.
“Over the years, like most startups, we have hired outside consultants to help with marketing and app store optimization. More oversight is needed and we are currently working on it,” said a statement sent by an unnamed AmpMe representative. (He was signed to “The AmpMe Team” email.)
Furthermore, the company said that it was responding to this recent backlash by releasing a new version of the app with a reduced price.
“We always adhere to Apple’s subscription guidelines and are working relentlessly to ensure that their high standards are met,” the email read. “We also respect and value community feedback. Therefore, a new version of the low-cost app has already been submitted to the App Store for review.
That version has since gone live and sees the weekly subscription drop from $9.99 to $9.99.
Today, Eleftherio tells us that it looks like a manual cleanup of fake reviews is now underway.
At 11 a.m. on Monday, they documented that the app had 54,080 reviews. Till 9 p.m. Tuesday, after AmmpMe saw a whole lot Of Bad pressThe app’s review count had come down to 53,028. As of 7 am on Wednesday, the number of reviews fell again to 50,693. But the overall rating of the app hasn’t been affected in a meaningful way. This may be because the reviews being removed are submitted by fake App Store users, rather than the app being given a five-star rating but no review text or reviewer name appearing. This means that the cleaning process will make it less obvious that the app purchased a fake review.
Also of interest, perhaps, is Empmy’s CEO: Canadian technology entrepreneur Martin-Luc Archambault. Their Vajam software turned adware was previously investigated by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC), and Found a violation of Canadian Internet privacy laws By collecting user data without consent. It also uses several methods to evade detection by antivirus software, reports Claimed those days. When the OPC announced its findings, Archambault claimed that Canadian user data had been destroyed and that Wajam sold its assets to a Chinese company. Over its lifetime, adware was installed millions of times, the OPC report said.
In other words, this is not the kind of person who would be opposed to buying some fake reviews!
AmpMe did not respond to further questions beyond its original statement, and Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
To date, AMPME had raised $10 million in VC funding, per crunchbase figures.