It’s been long-held conventional wisdom that the safest place you can purchase apps is either the Google Play Store if you have an Android device, or the Apple Store if you’ve got a device built around iOS.
That’s still true for the most part, but in recent months, Apple has been running into a problem that Google has a lot of familiarity with.
Not long ago, Apple introduced a new system called “App Store Search Ads” which allows developers to display ads in order to increase the visibility of their products.
If you’ve ever used Google’s search engine, then you’ve probably seen something similar in action, because you’ll note that the first couple of entries displayed on any search results page are ads.
Developers can use simple SEO tricks to get a higher ranking based on the keywords a user enters into the search box.
The problem is that Apple doesn’t have the same level of experience that Google does when it comes to dealing with developers who try to game the system.
Google itself suffered from similar problems with their search engine results prior to their famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) “Panda” update, which went a long way toward curbing the worst abuses in the system.
Unfortunately, Apple isn’t quite there yet. Their new service just isn’t as robust, and unsavory developers are taking advantage. In fact, a researcher named Johnny Lin analyzed the Apple Store’s trending apps and discovered that most of the trending and most visible apps are fake or useless. They contain options for in-app purchases for largely useless services which are costing users billions.
In one example, Lin discovered that the app “Mobile Protection: Clean & Security VPN” tricks users into signing up for an antivirus protection plan that costs a hefty $99.99 a week. Based on sales data, that app is generating more than $80,000 a month for its developer, and represents just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, because in many cases, the entire first page of search results is occupied by similar apps.
No doubt, Apple will move quickly to address the issue and set controls that minimize a developer’s ability to game the system. But for now, be sure to use some extra diligence before installing any new app from the Apple Store, and read the fine print before signing up for any in-app purchases.
If you already have, here’s how you can cancel any unwanted subscriptions:
• Open your “Settings” app and go to the iTunes App Store.
• View your Apple ID
• Enter your password, or press against “Touch ID” when the app prompts you to do so
• Tap “Subscriptions” to see your current list of subscriptions, then tap the ones you want to cancel
• Tap confirm
Once your current subscription period ends, you’re off the hook.