Apple Bans 1,000+ Apps After Developer Is Caught Faking Reviews

Apple just swung the banhammer pretty hard at Molinker, a development company, after a customer named Patrick Timney pointed out that the majority of reviews on Molinker apps were fake. Until yesterday, the company had 1,011 apps on the App Store, mostly easy-to-knock-out travel guides for 99 cents each. Now they’re all gone, and Apple’s VP Phil Schiller told iPhoneography, “Yes, this developer’s apps have been removed from the App Store and their ratings no longer appear either.”

See? Sometimes it does matter whether you complain or not. In this case, had Timney not taken the time to contact the blog iPhoneography and then Apple to report the fake ratings, someone out there might be buying a Molinker app right now. Timney told iPhone Savior,

Two of Molinker’s photography apps had already made it into the Top 20 Paid Apps, with Color Magic being featured in Apple’s Staff Favorites section on the front page of the App Store.

“I compiled every investigative thing I could find to prove my point, including screen shot after screen shot proving that the reviews were bogus,” Timney said. “I personally emailed Phil Schiller. On Saturday afternoon he sent me an email from his home, telling me they just removed all the Molinker apps from the App Store along with the ratings.”

“I figured Apple would investigate my claims, but not yank every app Molinker had in the App Store, Patrick said. “I was speechless, I didn’t think that was gonna happen.”

“Apple Bans Another Developer, 1000+ Apps Pulled” [MobileCrunch via IntoMobile]
“iPhone Developer Caught in Alleged App Store Ratings Scam” [iPhone Savior]

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  1. H3ion says:

    I use a PC, not any Apple products, but it’s nice to see someone taking responsibility for policing their site. Kudos to Apple for dropping this cheater.

  2. hypnotik_jello says:

    So what happens if you need to restore / recover your phone. Will you still be able to re-download those apps you purchased? If not major AppStore fail. Not that I use an iPhone anymore… switched to the N900.

    • Paladin_11 says:

      Apps are backed up and stored on your local computer. If you need to replace them or add them to a new phone that’s where they come from. Shame on you if you don’t have backups of your own computer.

      • hypnotik_jello says:

        Shame on me? Uh dude, I don’t even use an iPhone anymore, I don’t participate in that Apple hegemony, but thanks for berating me. And my home computer is backed up to a network server which is then backed up to tape, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about there.

        • Paladin_11 says:

          Sorry, that’s the generic you, not the specific you. But you do have backups, right?

          Seriously, I apologize as I didn’t mean that to be a slam against you personally.

          • hypnotik_jello says:

            Apology accepted. Sorry for the snap back… damn interwebs, sometimes hard to tell tone. And yeah I do have backups…it’s all backed up nightly, of course my backup plan has never actually been tested so who can say until the day I need it to, but I’m pretty confident it will be ok.

            • Trai_Dep says:

              So since you’ve never tested it, doesn’t that put you at a lower level as some vendor that you’re complaining about who “doesn’t back up” (but actually does, and I’ll bet they test it)?
              You’re relying on hope and butterflies?
              Major commentator fail!

    • sardonumspa says:

      I have been able to re-download apps that I did not have copies of from the store on my iPhone. When you sign in to the store, it tells you that you already purchased the app and can download again for free.

      The thing that bugs me with Apple’s app banning is the disregard for the customers. Suppose some of the developers customers found the app useful and paid for it? Now they cannot get updates any longer?

      This is what happened to me over one of the Google Voice apps that Apple decided to ban after I had paid for it. When it stopped working because Google changed something about the sign in process, I could not get an update to the app that fixed the problem.

      That was my sole reason for jailbreaking my iPhone; so I could download the updated app from Cydia, now free. All this just to use an app that I had already purchased but Apple banned after that fact.

  3. _hi_ says:

    So this guy had a ‘theory’ and ‘collected evidence’ that Molinker was ‘conspiring’ to commit some sort of fraud? OMgosh He’s a conspiracy theorist! OMGosh Tin foil away!! Oh wait.. Apple actually looked into his evidence and found it was true! OMGosh Apple is helping conspiracy theorists! Baaaad Apple.

  4. Paladin_11 says:

    Molinker was a China-based scam company anyway. Those travel guide apps you’re talking about? The contents were all copied from Wikipedia. Apple should have banned these guys long ago…

    • LatherRinseRepeat says:

      I think the Apple AppStore is a mess. Legitimate and useful apps are being rejected for arbitrary reasons. While scammy apps make it through without any problems. Also, Apple seems to have no problems approving apps that are just blatant rip-offs/clones of existing apps that were hacked/reverse-engineered/re-branded.

  5. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    Apple just swung the banhammer pretty hard at Molinker…

    Is Roz working at Apple too?

  6. dohtem says:

    I wish Google would regulate the Android Market in a similar fashion. There are a ton of these scam “companies” that grab proprietary info and images from the web, package it into an app and slap a price on it. Then they spam the store with scores of them. :(

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Android+Market/thread?tid=50c8e61d1fc4238e&hl=en

    • tbax929 says:

      I don’t “buy” any apps, Android or iPod. If I can’t get an app for free, I don’t need it. I have noticed, so far, that there are more free Android apps than iPod apps, but I could be wrong.

      • dohtem says:

        Free apps are nice, yes, but there is nothing wrong with supporting software developers whose work you use.

        There is nothing wrong with paying for quality apps you will get hours of use from.

        • sonneillon says:

          Agreed, the free apps are great but ones that will give you the most distraction and keep you entertained for an hour usually cost a buck.

      • Stephen Colon says:

        Of my three favorite third-party apps for the iPhone, only one was free. The other two cost me $3 and $5, individually. Those three apps I use every single day and reccomend to every friend with an iPhone or iPod Touch. Supporting the developers of really solid apps means that they can spend more time on the apps (time truly is money sometimes) and refine them
        further with some solid updates–which I’ve found has happened with these two paid apps. The one free one? Good app, but I can’t remember the last time the update was more than big fixes.

    • harrier666 says:

      I don’t have this “iphone” they speak of, but I love the 24 hour checkout on my g1. Does Apple offer a similar refund program? I have ended up keeping most programs I have grabbed, (which isn’t many since my dev version can’t get most of them anyway), but a few were crrrap and I had to turn them back in.

  7. MyTQuinn says:

    Apple and AT&T keep touting the quantity of apps available for the iPhone. If this is an example of their quantity, I’ll take quality any day.

    • dantsea says:

      Wait. Apple just proved that the quality and integrity of their available apps is important to them and you’re knocking them for it?

  8. scootinger says:

    So it’s good to see Apple cracking down on idiots like this. But isn’t it ridiculous that Apple can declare at any time they want that someone’s applications cannot run on the iPhone platform…at all? And possibly never again? That’s a shitload of apps there…albeit crappy ones most likely.

    • David in Brasil says:

      They didn’t say that these apps couldn’t be run; just not sold in their store. There are other places to get apps for the iPhone – both legal apps that just never made it into the iStore and cracked apps. These sites aren’t hard to find.

      Wow – I never thought I’d find myself defending Apple.

      • scootinger says:

        But Apple argues that methods to run non-AppStore apps on the iPhone platform are illegal (per DMCA) and they certainly void your warranty. Where’s the legitimate way to run apps that Apple doesn’t approve of?

  9. soj4life says:

    Kudos to Apple.

  10. Thora says:

    Sooo… the fart apps & weed-finders get to stay but this guy’s get taken out just cause he was faking reviews? OK.

    You know, I would never buy anything from a company that controls what I do with it. I don’t see why Apple feels the need to tell iPhone users what they can & can’t put on their devices. I can see banning a developer for shenanigans like this, but pulling all his apps? Nazi-ish.

    • David in Brasil says:

      Thora – you should try to move outside the US with your iPhone. Apple’s DRM lockdown prevent you from doing much of anything (legally, anyway). Can’t update the software, as it tries to re-lock to AT&T…. Every country has its own specific iStore with with different apps. It’s a huge pain.

    • TheWillow says:

      perhaps you should consider looking into some world history classes.

  11. Trai_Dep says:

    They deal with hundreds of apps daily, but when they catch scammers, they apply the death penalty mercilessly to protect their customers. Pretty awesome.

    PS: sorta sad that several people feel so inadequate about their choice that they have to overcompensate in a thread that doesn’t even concern their preferred toy…

  12. ams199 says:

    What about those who paid to purchase these apps? Will they get refunds?

  13. tehcanuckian says:

    what email should i use to send apple the name of another (prominent) developer who has done this?

  14. Geekybiker says:

    Good for Apple. Faking reviews damages public trust in the accuracy of user reviews. Anyone who fakes them deserves to get slapped down hard. Now if we could just deal with Yelp removing legitimate reviews because the vendor pays them…