Shared in the Epic vs. Apple lawsuit, 2012 emails of Apple Fellow Phil Schiller revealed that the executive was extremely furious with scam app ranking #1 on the App Store. As the company’s Chief Marketing Officer in 2012, Schiller wrote to Philip Shoemaker, former Senior Director App Store Review over a knock app of the popular Temple Run app discovered on its digital marketplace.
Scam apps have been an issue for the App Store as early as 2012
Launched in 2008 with 500 apps, the App Store quickly grew into an attractive digital marketplace for developers to distribute their apps. However, it also attracted miscreants. Shared by @Patrick MacGee, in the 2012 email, pressing Shoemaker to recall their previous conversation on “bad apps”, Schiller questioned the App Store’s review process. He wrote:
What the hell is this???
Remember our talking about finding bad apps with low ratings?
Remember our talk about becoming the “Nordstroms” of stores in quality of service?
How does an obvious rip off of the super-popular Temple Run, with no screenshots, garbage marketing text, and almost all 1-star ratings become the #1 free app on the store?
Can anyone see a rip off of a top selling game? Any anyone see an app that is cheating the system?
Is no one reviewing these apps? Is no one minding the store?
This is insane!!!!!!!
Epic presented this email to counter Apple’s argument that it uses the capital earned via App Store in-app purchases 30% commission rate (now reduced to 15% for small developers) is used to make the digital store secure marketplace. The developer is attacking the app store’s review process by showing that thousands of fake apps make to the App Store which unfortunately rob people.
Phil Schiller in 2012, after a rip-off app hit #1: "What the hell is this?????
…. Is no one reviewing these Apps? Is no one minding the store?" pic.twitter.com/pNaozl6hv1
— Patrick McGee (@PatrickMcGee_) May 3, 2021
Recently, developer Kosta Eleftheriou discovered a scam app impersonating his FlickType app and many others which were robbing users of millions of dollars. Those non-functional apps on the App Store earn up to $2 million annually use fake reviews, 5 star-ratings, and false advertising to convince people to make in-app weekly/monthly/ yearly purchases. He is now suing Apple for abetting scam apps for far too long.
Having said that, another Schiller email to Shoemaker shows his proposed idea to nib the issue in the bud. Shared by @Jacob Terry, in the 2015 email, Schiller shared sent screenshots of a fraudulent app with Shoemaker sent to CEO, Tim Cook and wrote that the app with 5-star rating did not do what it said. He asked the director to create tools to automatically detect such malicious software and “kick it out of the store.”
Phil Schiller, 2015:
“[this scam app] is a great example of the stuff we should have automatic tools to find and kick out of the store. I can’t believe we still don’t.”
“and PLEASE develop a system to automatically find low rated apps and purge them!!” pic.twitter.com/fhFvja7vXs
— Jacob Terry (@jerkob) May 5, 2021
Although Epic is using these documents to show the incompetence of the App Store’s review process, I believe it might have the opposite effect. The documents reveal that top executives are not only monitoring the marketplace but also proposing solutions to the problem. Apple says it rejects or removes up to 400,000 apps annually from the App Store but the company must devise stronger walls to prevent malicious apps from entering and robbing users.