Fake apps, fake reviews on google play

Is google losing the war with the dark side of the app-community ? More and more malicious apps, fake apps, and fake app reviews are encountered.

Wherever there is honest money to be earned, there will be people gaming the system. The amount of malicious and fake apps on the google play store seems to continue to grow and while google is trying to stop these, especially the fake clicks which hit googles’ pockets, the war against fake reviews is another story altogether.

A malicious app is an app which either steals user data, deletes files, impersonates clicks etc.
A fake app is and app which pretends to do one thing when in reality it does not do anything or does something completely different. The term ‘fake apps’ is more broad and not as easy to pin-down.
A fake review is either a paid-for review with a 4 or 5 star rating or the opposite, a malicious review with 1 star to bring a competitor down.

As you would assume, a person creating a malicious or a fake app will not shy away from starting a negative fake-review campaign to gain traction and increase their user base. Over the years, we’ve seen everything from automated download bots to ad-spam-apps to outright scams to fake ratings and more. Those are all attempts by shady developers to earn a better chart rank than their app naturally deserved.

I have been developing Android apps for a few years and have some apps which are semi successful. One of my apps is “MP4 Video Converter” and as of late I have seen a clockwork like on-slaught of 1 star reviews.

Now this could be because my app is bad and some of those may be people who truly dislike my app. However I believe that there are more sinister reasons behind this.

Most negative reviews are very short, do not contain specifics and mention strange things. Like complaining about missing support to transcode DVDs or stating falsely that the app does not do anything. I take pride in my app and I guarantee that the functionality is working on all of my test setup ( multiple real Android devices plus emulators )

So this brings me to one specific case where a user gave me a bad review saying that it is too slow. I asked him which app is faster, to which he pointed me to Total Video Converter ,Any Video Converter by SunStar. I investigated why he was so much faster and found that his app simply renames the input video and does nothing to transcode it.

The app displays a waiting cursor and after a few seconds of doing nothing but copy-and-rename it happily lets the user know it is done.

This is a real fake app.

I contacted Google and left the proper response on this particular app. However Google has not yet removed the app.Hey google, you have no issues complaining when my app is falling outside your rules, Why do you leave this garbage in ?

Also I checked some of this guys oher apps and they all have issues. Like extracting the audio and simply adding a file extension like mp3 when in reality the format is aac. Maybe this guy believes that’s all there is transcoding, however I think he is simply too lazy doing the work.

He has tens of thousands downloads and much better reviews than my app which is really frustrating that my work is less appreciated than this fake app simply because it is ‘faster’.

I saw other similar apps which do the same. Most are easily spotted because they claim to transcode a video but their apk size is less than 10MB. I know that you would need ffmpeg with at least a few supported formats which would require your apk file to be at least 10MB. a 2MB apk does not fit ffmpeg.

Fake Reviews

I know it is hard to shield against fake reviews and I really would like Google to think about ways to help in this regard. A single one word review like “no” or “bad” does not help anyone. Especially since my experience has been that there is no response if you ask for more information on what is wrong.
I can’t fix “Ed does not go ahead, I can see Ed only if I see Ed” or “very fake app, dont waste your bundle” or “verry bad application. useless” or, according to Raiyan Kh : “worst app ever, why people do fake reviews? dont download this app its useless and Waste of time”.

Raiyan, I agree with you, fake reviews are really a drag on everyone. So why don’t you stop or better if you have some real issue let me know what is not working so that I can fix it for you, and for everyone else.

Google does not act or does not care

So with me reporting something which is easy to validate I find it disheartening that google is not taking action, especially since we hear more and more security breaches on the Play Store.