When you start doing research for what you consider shady at best practices and then during that investigation you come across something that really makes you sick to your stomach it is hard not to get emotional when writing the blog post for said story.  That said that is what happened here and I do apologize upfront for the tone of this post.  


I was forwarded an email from a listener of the show that has an app.  He was contacted by a site by the name of YourAppReviewed dot com - no I am not going to put the link to said site and from here on out I will just refer to them as YAR.  This site is claiming to offer paid reviews in iTunes for your Apps.  I contacted the person running the site posing as someone interested in this service.  Well really I was not posing I was very interested in the service just not in the way they thought.  


I asked the following question:  "Can you give us a few examples of Apps in the app store you have worked with?"  


YAR's response to that question was the following:  "As I'm sure you can easily imagine, our customers are not really keen to have there name disclosed."    


Which lead me to send the following:  "Now you have me a bit concerned - is your service something that our clients should be worried about using?  In other words is this something that Apple would throw an app out of Itunes for using?"  


YAR response to that was: "As we are not posting fake reviews, it's not something which is conflicting with Apple rules. Our reviewers are real iPhone and iPod users.  We don't pay them to post fake positive reviews but to give their honest opinion Apps.  Don't worry about that."


Well first I don't think Apple would be happy with any paid review services - and second he comments that they were "honest" reviews.  This I seriously questioned in my mind.  So I started doing some research and was able to figure out who many of the reviewers are that they use and the apps they reviewed. When I started looking at the reviews it became clear they were anything but honest - IMO.  Here is a list of the Apple usernames I was able to work out that are part of YAR and doing the paid reviews.  The number of 4 or 5 star reviews for each is listed - along with a link to their reviews so you can see for yourself.  


#   Reviewers

35  ACKirkPatrick

34  RobbyRedPort

32  Violin Lady

31  amberg914

31  RRS Comm

29  HustonJudge

28  stephyboop

16  sailing r

15  Wii4Me

13  kyoku1

13  Meowzers9

13  Writer R

 9  Bartsrock

 9  Seatramp

 8  R2S Writes

 7  Musician 123

 7  RS 11

 7  Witchygreemeyez2

 5  Nice Mom

 4  relsenpeter

 2  WriteWithMe


UPDATE 1:  Additional Bogus Reviewers

5  Parker from PA



Note - There were additional reviewers that did single reviews for some of the apps below - but as they only did a single review it was tough to prove they were part of YAR so I did not include them in the list above. If they do more I will add them at a later date. 


The group above was responsible for doing well over 300 reviews in iTunes for the following apps, The number of likely paid reviews performed by the "reviewers" above is listed before the App in question.  



# Reviews

App

44

Various Prof McMurphy's Subliminal Techniques Apps

19

Super Camera 2: ALL-IN-1

18

HealthCalcs

12

iSMEStorage

10

Attack of the Titans

10

Color Me!!!

9

AmplioWords

9

sleep deeply

8

easy weight loss

8

iExit

7

Total Confidence & Success

7

Wagumo

6

abcDJ

6

easy stop smoking

6

Emoti

6

TapFolio

5

BandMate: Concert Tipster

5

Battery Status Pro

5

CarSpot

5

chinaquiz, a game to learn chinese characters

5

Crap of Defense

5

Dock Suite

5

Elemental (PToE)

5

FoodEssentials Scanner

5

Geotag Photos

5

Health Spender

5

Herbs+

5

iWeddingManager

5

Kaeru Jump

5

New Mom

5

NoteCalc

5

Sailing Log

5

TrackinU Universal

4

Disaster Readiness 2011

4

Doodle Air Hockey

4

Life Goals

4

Qwik BT

4

Relax Completely

4

ShowMe Stories

4

Tennis Bundle universal App for iPad, iPhone and iPod-Touch

4

triathlon and marathon training with ontri.com

4

Yada 6 Family

3

Bible Books

3

Dolch Sight Words Complete Edition

3

QwikClique Lite

3

Yada 6 Friends

2

Air Hockey Ultimate

2

Crash Test

2

FastCalc

2

iTinnitus Solutions


Update 2 - More Apps Likely getting Bogus Paid Reviews:

    5    HeartScan

    4    Diet OK

    2    Sound Memory Family

    2    Tic Tac Toe - iPad Edition

    


Note: Again there were other apps I am pretty sure were part of the YAR reviews - but as they were just a single review and I did not want to include them in the list above.  I am sure there are other apps and reviewers I did not come across - but the ones above I have a very high level of confidence that they are part of YAR. Sadly some of the apps above had 4 or 5 star reviews from people that clearly were not part of YAR - but those are now IMO rendered moot as you can not trust anything you read for reviews for any of the apps above - except the 1 and 2 star reviews - which many of them have.  


Per the start of the article where I was disgusted by what I discovered, that was when I came across a review by apple user - RobbyRedPort.  It was for the app -  Overcome the loss of a loved one with prof McMurphys subliminal techniques - Thats right they appear to be paying to put up a fake review for an app that "prays" on those that lost a loved one.  That to me was way over the top.  Oh and if you think I am jumping to conclusions - go an look at the apps he reviewed for the developer (ZENESSA) of that and the other Prof McMurphy apps.  Apparently RobbyRedPort - also had issues with Acne, Weight, keeping new years resolutions, finding a mate, improving his sex life with the mate he was looking for, being successful, being happy, and oh yeah he also reviewed an app for Marathoners and Triathletes because nothing says I need subliminal help with my weight like someone that is running a marathon.  Yup they all seemed like honest reviews (Heavy Sarcasm). Looking at the other "reviewers" reviews that have multiple apps you find other conflicts.  Like Amberg914 that reviewed apps for New Moms, a Wedding Planner, and how to find a man.  I guess that is possible.  After all - RSS Comm, Violin Lady and Bartsrock all reviewed the New Mom and Wedding planner apps - Maybe they should have reviewed a birth control methods app.    


It is possible some of the reviews are real and heart felt - but you know what - not a single one of them said they were paid to do the review by the App developer they did said review for - and that is what the real issue here comes down to.  These are app reviews as an end user you really can not trust.  It makes you wonder how many others are doing this as well. Granted 300+ bogus app reviews is small in relation to all the app reviews out there and thankfully Apple does have control of the App store and what goes in it so they can do something about this.  


I hope Apple reads this and takes appropriate action - especially with regards to the app that prays on those that just lost a loved one.  To me this went from a fun project to something that just made me sick to my stomach.



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Category:breaking news -- posted at: 8:18 AM
Comments[17]


Click to listen to latest episode of the Today in iPhone Podcast

Links Mentioned in this Episode:



Apps Mentioned in this Episode:
Marbletastic Checkers
Klondike Battle - Actually it is $0.99

Direct download: tii_0128.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:43 AM
Comments[0]

Thanks to Rich for sending in the image for this post.  Definitely a major App message FAIL. 
Category:breaking news -- posted at: 6:56 AM
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Click to listen to latest episode of the Today in iPhone Podcast

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Apps Mentioned in this Episode:
Bento - iPad
Camera A / Camera B
ABC App
Instapaper
Cloud Browse
Marbletastic Checkers
eBay for iPad

Direct download: tii_0127.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:34 AM
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In the iPhone OS 4.x event.  Steve Jobs gave an update on the iPad sales about 450,000 units sold up to April 8th and Best Buy is out of stock.  Over 4 Billion App downloads to date and over 185,000 apps in the App store, and over 3,500 iPad specific Apps.  The iPhone has a 64% of the US mobile browser usage. Sold over 50 Million iPhones and another 35 Million iPod Touches.  

The iPhone OS 4.0 update will be available this Summer for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and then in the fall for the iPad.  Developer preview available April 8th. 

Over 100 new user features including:  Bluetooth Keyboard access, Home Screen Wallpaper, 5x Digital Zoom on the camera, Spell Check, Tap to focus on Video and more. 

However there are 7 key "Tentpole" features

1. Multitasking - Not to be confused with pure backgrounding.  There are some limitations.  Such as it will work only on the iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch 3rd Gen (and the iPad).  This means for all other owners - Jailbreaking is your only option.   As I said this is not 100% backgrounding of Apps.  In most cases apps are frozen in the background, only some options are able to run in the background.  Like audio in Pandora.  But IM's in Skype or AIM are not live in the background.  Apps must be setup by the app developers to use the limited set of background features. 

2. App Folders - similar to categories on the jailbreak side, accept these folders don't look like folders they look more like tiny docks.  In all you can now put 2160 apps on your device.  If you max that out - there are issues you need to work out with your shrink.  I was surprised on this one - I did not think they would do folders - but am very happy they did. They actually combined Categories and Overboard - This is a nice addition. 

3. New Mail App - Finally - Now you can have a single unified inbox - multiple email accounts including multiple exchange accounts. And organizing by threads.   

4. iBooks - Yes the same iBooks as is on the iPad except smaller for the iPhone and iPod touch.  Can buy a book once and transfer between iPad and iPhone / iPod touch - including wireless syncing of page and bookmarks. 

5. Enterprise - This is for reaching out to the Enterprise users.  In includes - Better data protection,  Mobile Device Management, Wireless App distribution, Multiple Exchange Accounts, Exchange Server 2000, and support for SSL VPN.

6. Game Center - Think of this like match.com for Gamers.  Or I guess X-Box Live.  This will not launch until later in the year.  You can challenge your friends to games or they will match you up with strangers.  

7. iAd Advertising - Remember Apples purchase of Quatro in January - well they will be putting that purchase to use very soon.  Apple will build in Ad serving for apps into the SDK. Apple will take 40% of the Ad revenue - up a little from their 30% cut of App sales.  Will be interesting to see what type of inventory they can get and what the ad rates are. 

Also Custom background images - As mentioned above.  While not as full featured as Winterboard with full themes. It is nice to see this added - and not surprising at all - as it is already available in OS 3.2 on the iPad. 

Overall the new features are really nice - and folders will be really welcome on my iPhone.  However if you have an older gen iPhone or iPod Touch - Apple really is saying go and jailbreak because you are not getting some of these features.  Some you will get - but not all.  


Category:breaking news -- posted at: 5:48 AM
Comments[1]


Click to listen to latest episode of the Today in iPhone Podcast

Links Mentioned in this Episode:


Apps Mentioned in this Episode:


Direct download: tii_0126.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:50 PM
Comments[2]

Ep 126 is a little late due to me playing with my iPad more than I expected. However I do have the review done for the iPad which you can read here.  This means I can now go out and read the other reviews.  However I am staying away from any reviews where the iPad was given to the reviewer.  

Below will be a list of reviews of the iPad from those that actually purchased their iPad that I liked. 

iPad Reviews:









Know of some other good reviews? let me know in the comments below. 

Category:breaking news -- posted at: 7:29 PM
Comments[1]

Waiting here in line for my iPad and it is 45 degrees out (Thanks Steve) and I am kept warm by my blankets and the bottom of my MacBook. Last night before I went to sleep my wife asked me why I needed to get on line early, I tried to explain - but she did not get it. However it is per the email below that makes me remember why it is I am in line.  Looks like not all are going to get their iPad's that pre-ordered them for shipment today.  

Hi Rob,

Just got the notice today that UPS will not deliver my iPad until Monday instead of on Saturday.  This in spite of the fact that on the Apple website they guaranteed delivery by April 3rd when I placed my order.

Both Apple and UPS lost credibility with me over this one.  There are three Apple Stores in Honolulu.  I could have and would have gone to any of them to pick up my iPad if Apple had mentioned that delivery to my house was not guaranteed.

Place my vote in the very disappointed column.

Aloha and keep up the great work on your Podcast,

Will B
Honolulu, HI

If you have received notice that your iPad is not being delivered today as promised - please let us know in the comments below.  

Update: 4/3/10 2:03 PM Central  From Will B: 
Hi Rob,

Well, I guess the notification from UPS was just insurance in case they could not make the Saturday delivery, but the UPS truck was at my house by 8:30 AM on Saturday after all, even before the Apple Store opened.  That's more like what I expect from Apple.

Enjoy your iPad.  Look forward to hear yours and the experiences of your listeners.

Aloha,  Will B.


Category:breaking news -- posted at: 10:31 AM
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