Apple’s App Store has a problem.
Shady developers are gaming the App Store’s policies and its search ads to get users to download apps that trick them into paying for subscriptions for scam apps.
While there have long been apps from less reputable developers in the App Store, one developer called attention to just how bad the problem has become in recent months.
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Johnny Lin, a developer who once worked for Apple, published a lengthy Medium post over the weekend detailing how widespread the problem is. The whole post is really worth the read, but the bottom line is this: by buying a few strategically picked search ads and using a bit of SEO, a shady developer can make tens of thousands of dollars off a garbage app by aggressively pushing users to buy subscriptions.
“It was really eye opening and shocking to see the wrong types of behavior being rewarded like that,” says Lin.
One of the more egregious apps he found was an app named “Mobile protection :Clean & Security VPN” that asked users to pay $99.99 a week for a completely worthless service. The app was making $80,000 a month, according to data from marketing firm Sensor Tower.
Apple removed the app, and several others Lin highlighted, after his post went viral, but the App Store is still rife with shady apps that use subscriptions and misleading descriptions to trick people into spending lots of money on junk apps.