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Buyers Beware - App-Shopping Red Flags

Posted by Rob Rich on February 1st, 2013

The App Store can be a wonderful place full of far too many games to count spread across every genre imaginable. However, despite all the rules and regulations for submissions, a few shady characters will inevitably fall through the cracks. In my numerous App Store searches I’ve seen my fair share of cash-grabs, some obvious and some not so much, but I’ve also begun to notice a few telltale signs that can be a good indication of a developer’s intentions.

This guide is not written in stone, and there are always exceptions to every rule. And I in no way mean to imply that the majority of App Store developers are simply out to con the unwary out of their money. Quite the contrary. Most of them are great folks who are just trying to make an honest dollar doing what they love and making other people happy. I only wish to pass a few tips along in the hopes that it may give you all a better idea of some of the things to look out for.

Tip #1 - Judging a game by its icon

Not all icons can be winners. That being said, if you see an icon featuring a recognizable character or a recognizable character who’s been slightly tweaked so they look a little different, proceed with caution. Using an icon that looks incredibly similar to a top selling iOS (even PC or console) game is a tactic often used to trick potential buyers.

Tip #2 - Check the screen shots

Screen shots are another good indication of legitimacy. They won’t all feature showpiece visuals but they still need to be there. If a game only has one or two screens available for viewing in the store, and those screens don’t actually show any in-game content, tread very carefully. Another “tell” of sorts is the actual content of the game screens. If the visuals look exactly like another game, or if (and I’ve seen this before) it looks like someone pasted some virtual buttons on top of a screencap, you might want to think twice before buying.

Tip #3 - File size

You see a game that looks awesome and the description makes it sound like the best thing since, well, the iPhone and it has a dozen glowing reviews. Before you hit “Purchase,” just take a quick peek at its file size. If this jaw-dropping showcase of iOS visual prowess takes up 5 MB (or even 50), it’s highly unlikely those screens or reviews are for real. Which brings me to my final tip.

Tip #4 - Check those reviews

User are largely subjective, but they can still be quite telling. If a game has a dozen five-star reviews and three or four with one-star, take the time to read the one-stars. Not liking a game is one thing, but when a buyer claims the game in question is totally different than what’s advertised you might want to pay attention. Also look out for reviews that are way too positive. It might be a trap.

Train Crisis HD+ Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on March 30th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: FIRST CLASS TICKET
Leading trains around a track is apparently quite the white-knuckle affair. Of course it still looks cool if they meet with an unfortunate accident.
Read The Full Review »

Apple to publish App Store guidelines, allow third-party dev tools

Posted by Kyle Flanigan on September 10th, 2010

iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad developers - rejoice. Yesterday Apple released a statement announcing the removal of a number of restrictions placed on developers, relaxing the development process and making the approval process significantly more transparent by publishing official guidelines for the application approval process.

Beforehand, developers were unaware of the official process, creating a significant grey area where writers of applications remained in the dark with regards to certain policies - adult content, the use of physical buttons on iDevices etc. For example, earlier last month the developers of ReadItLater - a tool similar to Instapaper that saves webpage content for later reading - had version 2.2 of their application rejected by Apple due to a registration process seen on thousands of other applications live on the App Store. "Applications cannot require user registration prior to allowing access to app features and content" wrote the statement of disapproval from Apple. The application was later resubmitted - unchanged - and approved. It is not yet known when the guidelines will be published for viewing by developers.

The press release also announced that Apple "are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code." In other words, no longer are developers limited to tools made by Apple specifically for iOS software development. "This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need" the release continued.

Finally, Apple also relaxed restrictions on mobile advertising, an unexpected change given Apple's recent iAd integration. Specifically, the new changes allow developers to choose which type of ads (if any) they want their application to include. "The new terms provide immediate clarification about the status of mobile advertising on the iPhone and will benefit users, developers, and advertisers. Users will benefit from more free, or low cost, apps that can now more readily be supported by advertising" wrote Omar Hamoui, Vice President of Product Management at Google Mobile. "This is great news for everyone in the mobile community, as we believe that a competitive environment is the best way to drive innovation and growth in mobile advertising."

The changes represent a big step forward for developers, who now have much clearer rules regarding application development. And that's good news for the end user as well as the developers.

[Image courtesy of Apple]