By taking commissions from the app store, apple can earn $19 billion a year, which has become an important source of revenue.
The operation mode of Apple App store has attracted the attention of many legislators and regulators, and recently made some concessions in this regard.
However, Apple seems unable and unwilling to improve its app store rules, which can be seen from eight aspects.
Apple could have taken many measures to better protect users’ interests in case of mistakes, such as hiring more people to review applications submitted and fraud.
Tencent technology news on September 5, when we spend in the Apple App store, the company usually charges a 30% commission, which is estimated to reach $19 billion a year. Apple is currently trying to prove to legislators, judges, regulators and developers that the company takes these commissions for granted, but not everyone buys apple’s account.
South Korea recently passed a landmark bill that may prevent apple and Google from directly charging 30% commissions and may encourage other governments to take similar measures. Developers are also angered by Apple’s recent behavior. The company turned the $100 million litigation settlement agreement into a $100 million developer fund, and quietly promised to pay $30 million to lawyers without making any real significant changes.
Although Apple claims that its app store is “planned by experts”, is “a safe and reliable place to find and download applications”, and it implements “the highest standards of privacy, security and content” for applications, the company’s own e-mail depicts a different picture. These emails show that Apple knew about the amazing scams that cheated millions of dollars from iPhone users long before the relevant reports were released, but they have never been able to prevent these people from invading the app store.
It is worth emphasizing that apple is the most valuable and profitable company in the world. The company currently makes an average of $10000 per second, with a profit of $3600, a large part of which comes from the app store. Since 2016, the size of app store business alone has exceeded that of MAC or iPad. If Apple wants to change the system, it should be able to do it. But the company will only be dragged into a more powerful app store world because it seems unable to take better measures to protect its users.
Apple could have done better in the following eight areas, but it doesn’t seem to really care about the interests of app store users:
1. Employ 500 people to review nearly 100000 application applications per week
Apple has 500 human APP censors, but they need to fight the whole world. These 500 people need to process nearly 100000 application applications a week with the help of automation tools.
Even if you really believe in apple and assume that everyone in the 500 person audit team is a skilled and smart investigator, you can detect fraud at once, but you still have an absolute disadvantage in quantity. Although app store reviewers usually work 10 hours a day, a large number of APP applications mean that each auditor has only 15 minutes to evaluate each app, and this is when they don’t have any rest. The document also shows that they may work overtime for quite a long time.
The email from game developer Epic Games v. Apple’s antitrust case shows that the audit of Apple’s app store is not as accurate as expected. Eric Friedman, head of Apple’s anti fraud business, said that the Department is like providing “wet parts rate restriction service, that’s all”, and hinted that its goal is to let the application pass through the pipeline. Other documents in this lawsuit seem to support this view, repeatedly showing how the application review team continues to promote faster “service level agreements”, and sometimes makes mistakes because of working too fast, allowing bad applications to enter the store.
So, how big should Apple’s application audit team be? It’s hard to say, but Facebook claims to have more than 15000 content reviewers. Google also said that many of its services have more than 20000 reviewers, and even Twitter has 2200 reviewers. Admittedly, these platforms need to review much more information than apple, but then again, none of them claim to provide “the highest standards of privacy, security and content” when testing the entire program running on a handheld computer. If there were more reviewers, Apple might do better.
Again, apple is the world’s most valuable and profitable company, different from twitter and others. Therefore, it seems a natural decision to recruit more auditors.
2. Supervise whether there is fraud in the most profitable applications
This is not rocket science. Anyone can do it. Just look for the most profitable apps in the app store, find those apps that users comment on suspiciously, and then check whether their subscription prices are ridiculously high. For example, the wallpaper app for $9.99 a week is just repackaging the wallpaper we can download online for free, which can be regarded as a scam!
“We need to consider how to prevent this from happening,” the head of Apple’s Application Audit Program wrote in January 2018 He refers to the 32 page presentation on how to trick users into paying for regular subscriptions by using apps that get wallpapers and ringtones free of charge from the Internet. However, three years later, we see that the same scam still exists. When asked whether Apple would check for fraud in its highest paid apps, the company declined to answer directly.
3. Launch automatic fraud refund function
When reporting on App Store scams, many people have mentioned a conspiracy theory: the reason why Apple did not stop these scams may be that it is more profitable to turn a blind eye to them. Although there is no evidence of this, do we know what Apple can do to completely eliminate this concern? That is to launch the general automatic fraud refund function. When Apple retroactively removes fraudulent applications from the app store, just like sometimes when journalists and developers expose these applications, it should automatically refund people’s subscription fees and warn them to stop using these applications.
Apple has apparently not taken such measures yet. The company said it must examine fraud on a case by case basis. Consumers can choose to ask for a refund, but if Apple doesn’t tell them about the fraud, how do they know to refund or even how to prevent being cheated.
4. Auto renewal service is stopped by default
People hate pop-up messages, but some messages are essential. They ask users if they really want to continue subscribing to an application or service, and then continue charging. Every time, we know that the app store is paying attention to us, rather than secretly hoping that I am the kind of company that never bothers to check credit card bills.
However, Apple may not really do so because it is expected to lose huge profits and may drive some of the most profitable developers out of the platform. They think Apple has made it too easy to quit the service, so they abandoned such developers. But it will immediately solve the problem of so many people. When they realize that they have been cheated, they go to the comment area of the app store and complain that they don’t know how to cancel their subscription.
Kosta Eleftheriou, an anti fraud hunter, was very right: “if Apple really cares, they will take the same position on people’s money as privacy.” Apple CEO Steve Jobs clearly expressed the same position in 2010. When talking about privacy, he said: “ask them every time. Let them tell you that if they are tired of your inquiry, don’t ask them again. ”
5. Stop selling ads at the top of app store search results
Epic Games is trying to get more profits from apple through the fortress night lawsuit, but Tim Sweeney, CEO of the game developer, did the right thing a few years ago. Ironically, the top of the app store search is almost never the result you want, because other developers can pay apple to display their applications.
It seems that some developers have realized this. Wal Mart seems to be paying for advertising time on its own application, so interestingly, searching for them will make you get exactly the same results twice in a row. Can you believe that Apple’s initial plan to give back 15% to small developers is to give them store points for these search ads? These search ads are clearly hostile to users, even other search providers do the same. Apple can seriously fulfill its promise to users by removing them from the app store.
6. Lock minor users out of the adult application
In April this year, Apple was exposed to unknowingly inviting secret casinos to enter the app store disguised as children’s games. For apple, the so-called “bait and switch” application is not an easy thing to prevent, so it can’t be said to be a terrible failure. However, if Apple had more reviewers, they might find more malicious applications.
In any case, the tech transparency project recently found that minors can access illegal content without even accidentally discovering secret gambling dens. Even if Apple already knows that users are minors, the app store will openly provide adult applications. The project created an Apple ID for a simulated 14-year-old child, found 37 adult applications that allow them to register, including dating applications that display explicit adult content and casino games, and saw advertising pop-up for other casino applications over the age of 17.
According to the court documents, Apple’s anti fraud official mentioned in February 2020 that there was indeed a crime against children in the app store, and said it was a “challenge of insufficient resources” and a “serious threat”. Preventing minors from accessing certain applications is not a panacea, but it feels like an obvious patch that fills an embarrassing loophole. Otherwise, why should Apple bother to collect our age data?
7. Re launch the problem report button
Today, when fraudulent apps are identified in the Apple App store and leave a request for help, they may not be responded to. In the past, the app store had a real “problem report” button on each app. When asked about this change, apple said the button still existed, but it felt more like a decoration. The reasons are as follows:
– the only way to find the “problem report” button is to let the user always scroll down to the bottom of the apps or games tag, and you can’t even access it from your purchase tag;
— the “problem report” button is not actually opened in the app store. It will start a web browser, and users need to log in again in the browser;
— if you choose “report suspicious activity”, the website will redirect you to contact Apple support instead of actually submitting the report;
— if you choose “report quality problems”, the free downloaded application will be grayed out and can’t be clicked. Apple won’t let you report fraud unless you’ve been fooled;
— the only other options are “request a refund” and “find my content”. If you choose “apply for refund”, it will ask you the reason, and there is no mention of “cheated” in the drop-down option;
If Apple allows anyone to report fraud, it is likely to be inundated by false reports from rival developers. But Apple has created an environment in which “bad actors can play with the system” and buy and sell hundreds of false ratings.
8. Cancel star rating system
Star rating systems make the platform look great. They can make people who like a product release good “comments” quickly and easily without effort. Unlike traditional comments, many people only bother to write when they are depressed and angry. In theory, the star rating system can offset the bias against negative comments and make every product in the store look better than others.
But they also allow bad actors to undermine the integrity of the system, because most people can’t tell whether it’s a real user, a robot or a paid puppet. No name needs to be verified, no language requirements, no accountability measures. As a result, many of the worst app store fraud apps can even thousands of false 5-star comments. But if you look at the written comments, you will find that the 4.5-star app in the app store actually only gets 1.7 points.
So far, Apple’s solution has always been to eliminate false ratings, and it is usually a late fix. But apple can also eliminate the interstellar scoring system from the beginning and find a better way. For example, only people who use the application at a specific time are allowed to make positive comments. Other platforms such as Amazon and Google have similar star rating problems, which is Apple’s leading opportunity.
In May this year, apple reported that in 2020 alone, the company blocked potential fraudulent transactions worth $1.5 billion, permanently banned 1 million accounts, terminated hundreds of thousands of developer accounts, and rejected nearly 1 million high-risk applications. Apple explained that the $1.5 billion directly belongs to apple, not just the payment processor automatically completes their work, which sounds like an impressive number.
Meanwhile, shortly after the release of this article, apple agreed to postpone its controversial child abuse image scanning function. This feature triggered a huge protest because it violated Apple’s privacy commitments. But the problems contained in the app store are much more obvious and can be seen by anyone. Obviously, the company is now listening to feedback. If it wants to justify 30% of its revenue in the name of protecting user security, it should also accept some obvious solutions. These plans can prove that Apple puts people above profits, not the other way around（ Tencent Technology (reviser / Jinlu)